Regina v Sharp; Regina v Johnson: CCA 1957

There had been a fight between the two defendants in a public place in the presence of a large number of spectators. They were jointly indicted on a charge of affray and convicted. They appealed.
Held: The court considered the offence of affray, noting that it was an ancient offence for which there had been no recent reported prosecution. and cited the historical cases: ‘If two men are found fighting in a street one must be able to say that the other attacked him and that he was only defending himself. If he was only defending himself and not attacking that is not a fight and consequently not an affray.’ and
‘The author who devotes most attention to the matter is Hawkins, in Pleas of the Crown (1824), 8th ed, vol 1, chap 28, p 488. He lays down that there may be an affray when there is no actual violence, as when a man arms himself with dangerous and unusual weapons in such a manner as will naturally cause a terror to the people. This, he says, was always an offence at common law and dealt with by many statutes. He then quotes in particular the Assize of Northampton, 2 Edw 3, c 3. Dealing with that statute he says that no wearing of arms is within the meaning of this statute unless it be accompanied with such circumstances as are apt to terrify the people. The wearing of unusual or dangerous weapons in public is only one species of affray and in our opinion it is open to a jury to find that the circumstances amount to an affray although no person is actually called to say he was put in terror. Just as the mere wearing of a sword in the days when this was a common accoutrement of the nobility and gentry would be no evidence of an affray while the carrying in public of a studded mace or battle axe might be . .’
An indictment for affray is one which alleges that: ‘the circumstances involve a breach of the Sovereign’s peace, that it was a real disturbance of the peace by two persons fighting each other in public instead of settling their differences in the royal courts, or endeavouring by a display of force, though without necessarily using actual violence, to overawe the public, which was what was aimed at by the Assize of Northampton.’


Lord Goddard CJ


[1957] 1 QB 552, (1957) 41 Cr App R 86, [1957] 1 All ER 577


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedI v Director of Public Prosecutions etc HL 8-Mar-2001
A group of youths carried petrol bombs in public, anticipating a confrontation with another group. They did not brandish them or actually threaten anybody. On dispersal by the police the bombs were dropped. On being charged with affray it was held . .
CitedGnango, Regina v SC 14-Dec-2011
The prosecutor appealed against a successful appeal by the defendant against his conviction for murder. He and an opponent had engaged in a street battle using guns. His opponent had shot an innocent passer by. The court was now asked as to whether . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 01 May 2022; Ref: scu.237684