AskDefine | Define affray

Dictionary Definition



1 noisy quarrel [syn: altercation, fracas]
2 a noisy fight [syn: disturbance, fray, ruffle]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The act of suddenly disturbing any one; an assault or attack.
  2. A tumultuous assault or quarrel.
  3. The fighting of two or more persons, in a public place, to the terror of others.
    The affray in the busy marketplace caused great terror and disorder.



  1. To startle from quiet; to alarm.
  2. To frighten; to scare; to frighten away.

Extensive Definition

For the British submarine see HMS Affray (P421)

Affray in English Law

In English Law, Affray forms part of the Public Order Act 1986 under section 3.
The Public Order Act 1986 s.3 states:
  1. A person is guilty of Affray if a person uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and the person's conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.
  2. Where two or more persons use or threaten the unlawful violence, it is the conduct of them taken together that must be considered for the purpose of subsection (1)
  3. For the purposes of this section a threat can not be made by the use of words alone.
  4. No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.
  5. Affray may be committed in private as well as in public places.


  • Statutory Power of Arrest
  • Triable either way (Can be brought before a Magistrates court or Crown court)
  • Three years imprisonment and/or a fine on indictment; six months imprisonment and/or a fine summarily

Other Information

Traditionally, in English and Welsh Common law, the affray consisted of the fighting of two or more persons in a public place to the terror (in French: à l'effroi) of the lieges.
In England and Wales, affray may be committed in a public or a private place: section 3(5) Public Order Act 1986.
As those engaged in an affray render themselves also liable to prosecution for assault, Unlawful Assembly, or Riot, it is for one of these offences that they are usually charged.
Any private person may, and constables and justices must, interfere to put a stop to an affray.
In the United States the English common law as to affray applies, subject to certain modifications by the statutes of particular states (Bishop, Amer. Crim. Law, 8th ed., 1892, vol. i. sec. 535).
The Indian Penal Code (sect. 159) adopts the old English Common-Law definition of affray, with the substitution of actual disturbance of the peace for causing terror to the lieges.
The Queensland Criminal Code of 1899 (sect. 72) defines affray as taking part in a fight in a public highway or taking part in a fight of such a nature as to alarm the public in any other place to which the public have access. This definition is taken from that in the English Criminal Code Bill of 1880, cl. 96.
Under the Roman Dutch law in force in South Africa affray falls within the definition of vis publica.


  • Blackstones Police Manual Volume 4 General police duties, Fraser Simpson (2006). pp. 247. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-928522-5
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