A brief summary of CFA judgment on offences of unlawful assembly and riot

The Court of Final Appeal handed down a judgment concerning the offences of unlawful assembly and riot on November 4. I would like to highlight some of the significant legal points clarified by the Court of Final Appeal so that members of the public may have a better understanding of the offences.

(1) Broad expression of “taking part”

(2) Extraneous common purpose not required to be proved

(3) Basic form of joint enterprise unnecessary

It is important to bear in mind that paragraphs 69 and 70 of the judgment clearly stated that public order can be fully enforced relying on secondary liability and inchoate offences. Those masterminds who remotely oversee and give commands, fund or provide materials for the unlawful assembly or riot, encourage or promote it on social media, provide back-up support to participants such as collecting bricks, or act as lookouts may either be “taking part” as principals or liable as aiders and abettors if present at the scene; or, if not present, liable as counsellors or procurers.

Further, the judgment gave an example in paragraph 73 that if a group of persons agreed to take part together in a riot intending to erect barriers stopping traffic while knowing some amongst them would take along petrol bombs, should they proceed with their plan and petrol bombs were used to cause serious injury, the doctrine of extended joint enterprise might apply under which rioters would be liable for the more serious offence.

I hope the above summary would assist the general public in learning the legal principles set out in the judgment.

November 7, 2021