Rioters Demolishing Buildings

– section 206 of the Crimes Act 1958
Rioters Trying to Destroy a Building
This charge is generally laid in situations where a person riotously and tumultuously assembles together with other persons to the disturbance of the public peace and unlawfully and with force demolishes, pulls down, destroys or damages certain buildings, structures or machinery.
Examples of Rioters Demolishing Buildings
  • An accused is part of a large group of rioting people unlawfully completely demolish a local church.
  • An accused is part of a large group of rioting students unlawfully damage University buildings during a student protest.
  • An accused is part of a large group of rioting people unlawfully destroy a warehouse.
Questions in cases like this
  • Was the accused part of a larger group of people ‘riotously and tumultuously assembled’?
  • Did the accused and the group of people begin to unlawfully demolish, pull down or destroy a building or succeed in completely unlawfully demolishing, pulling down or destroying a building?
  • Was the building merely damaged as opposed to being demolished, pulled down or destroyed?
  • Was any building demolished, pulled down, destroyed or damaged a relevant building for the purposes of this offence?
What are some of the possible defences to Rioters Demolishing Buildings?

Defences to this charge ordinarily turn on some element of the offence not being made out. These defences include:

  • The accused was not part of a larger group of people riotously and tumultuously assembled;
  • If the accused was part of a larger group of people riotously and tumultuously assembled, the group of people did not unlawfully demolish, pull down, destroy or damage a building;
  • Any building unlawfully demolished, pulled down, destroyed or damaged was not a relevant building for the purposes of this offence.

You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged with this offence. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has important implications for you and should only be made after proper discussions with a criminal lawyer.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

County CourtThe offence of Rioters Demolishing Buildings carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment if the accused was part of a group of people that unlawfully and with force demolished, pulled down or destroyed or began to demolish, pull down or destroyed a relevant building.1

The maximum penalty for this offence is 5 years imprisonment if the accused was part of a group of people that unlawfully and with force injured or damaged a relevant building.2

This is an indictable offence which is heard in the County Court.

What is the legal definition of Rioters Demolishing Buildings?
  1. Whosoever is one of any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace who unlawfully and with force demolish or pull down or destroy or begin to demolish pull down or destroy any church chapel meeting-house or other place of divine worship, or any house stable coach-house outhouse warehouse office shop mill malthouse hop-oast barn granary shed hovel or fold, or any building or erection used in farming land or in carrying on any trade or manufacture or any branch thereof, or any building other than such as are in this section before mentioned belonging to the Queen or the Government of Victoria or to any municipal council or belonging to any university, or devoted or dedicated to public use or ornament, or erected or maintained by public subscription or contribution, or any machinery (whether fixed or movable) prepared for or employed in any manufacture or any steam-engine or other engine for sinking working ventilating or draining any mine, or any staith building or erection used in conducting the business of any mine or any bridge waggon-way tramway trunk or shoot for conveying minerals from any mine, shall be guilty of an indictable offence, and shall be liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).
  2. Whosoever is one of any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace who unlawfully and with force injure or damage any such place building or erection or thing as is in the last subsection mentioned, shall be guilty of an indictable offence, and shall be liable to level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum).
Legislation

The relevant legislative provision for this offence is section 206 of Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) (the Act).

Elements of the offence

For a person to be found guilty of this charge the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused was one of any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace;
  2. The group of people unlawfully and with force demolished, pulled down or destroyed or began to unlawfully and with force demolish, pull down or destroy a building; or injured or damaged a building; and
  3. The building demolished, pulled down, destroyed or damaged was a relevant building for the purpose of this offence.

 
Call Doogue + George
Element 1: The accused was one of any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace
The prosecution must first prove that the accused was ‘one of any persons’ ‘riotously and tumultuously assembled together’ to the ‘disturbance of the public peace’.

As the accused must be ‘one of any persons’, accused must be part of a group of people for this offence to apply. The Act does not specify the size of this group. Any group of two or more people will be sufficient. The accused need not be the leader of the group, they need only be part of it.

The group of people must be ‘riotously and tumultuously assembled’. The term is not defined in the Act and carries its ordinary meaning of ‘[generating] public disorder’.3 When a group is riotously and tumultuously assembled, they will generally be disturbing the public peace.

“Can they prove that you were riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace?”

Element 2: The group of people unlawfully and with force demolished, pulled down or destroyed or began to unlawfully and with force demolish, pull down or destroy a building; or injured or damaged a building
The prosecution must then prove that the accused was part of a group of people that unlawfully and with force demolished, pulled down or destroyed a building or began to do so. The words ‘demolished, pulled down or destroyed’ are not defined in the Act and interchangeably mean ‘ending the existence of’ the building.4

The prosecution may also prove that the accused was part of a group of people that ‘damaged or injured’ a building. ‘Damaging or Injuring’ is not defined in the Act and carries its ordinary meaning of ‘harming’.5 Damaging or injuring a building carries a reduced penalty of 5 years imprisonment, whereas demolishing, pulling down or destroying a building carries a maximum penalty 15 years imprisonment.

The prosecution must prove that the accused was part of a group of people acting unlawfully. If the accused has some lawful excuse for their actions, this element of the offence will not be made out.

Element 3: The building demolished, pulled down, destroyed or damaged was a relevant building for the purpose of this offence
The final element that the prosecution must prove is that the building that was demolished, pulled down, destroyed, damaged or injured was a relevant building for the purpose of this offence.

A relevant building for the purpose of this offence is any:

  • Church, chapel meeting-house or other place of divine worship; or
  • Any house, stable coach-house, outhouse, warehouse, office, shop, mill, malthouse, hop-oast, barn, granary, shed, hovel or fold; or
  • Any building or erection used in farming land or in carrying on any trade or manufacture or any branch thereof; or
  • Any building other than such as are in this section before mentioned belonging to the Queen or the Government of Victoria or to any municipal council or belonging to any university; or devoted or dedicated to public use or ornament, or erected or maintained by public subscription or contribution; or
  • Any machinery (whether fixed or movable) prepared for or employed in any manufacture or any steam-engine or other engine for sinking working ventilating or draining any mine, or any staith building or erection used in conducting the business of any mine or any bridge waggon-way tramway trunk or shoot for conveying minerals from any mine.

 



[1] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 206(1)
[2] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 206(2)
[3] Oxford English Dictionary Online, ‘Riotous’, accessed 17/11/2018 <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/riotous>.
[4] Oxford English Dictionary Online, ‘Destroy’, accessed 17/11/2018 <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/destroy>.
[5] Oxford English Dictionary Online, ‘Destroy’, accessed 17/11/2018 <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/injury>.