quote:The 1715 Riot Act was an attempt to strengthen the power of the civil authorities when threatened with riotous behaviour. The act made it a serious crime for members of a crowd of twelve or more people to refuse to disperse within an hour of being ordered to do so by a magistrate. One of the problems for magistrates was actually reading the Riot Act during a serious disturbance. For example, after the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, most of the demonstrators that were convicted claimed that they had not heard the Riot Act being read. The Riot Act was unsuccessful in controlling a series of disturbances including the 1743 Gin Riots, the 1768 St George's Massacre and the 1780 Gordon Riots.
Interestingly, NZ's Crimes Act 1961 contains a provision for Reading the Riot Act!
Crimes Act 1961 043 Commenced: 1 Jan 1962
V: Crimes Against Public Order Unlawful Assemblies, Riots, and Breaches of the Peace 88 Reading the Riot Act
88. Reading the Riot Act---(1) Where 12 or more persons are unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together in any place to the disturbance of the public peace, any Magistrate or Justice may,at the request of the senior member of the Police for the time being acting in that place, go to the place where the assembly is, and, among the rioters or as near to them as he can safely come, with a loud voice command silence, and then, openly and with a loud voice, make or cause to be made a proclamation in the following words, or to a like effect:
``Her Majesty the Queen commands all of you to disperse immediately and to go quietly to your homes or to your lawful business, upon pain of being charged with an offence punishable by imprisonment for 5 years.
There is a legal theory that the law should state what conduct in prohibits or mandates, and that a law which is so vague that an ordinary person of reasonable intellegence cannot understand what he is or is not supposed to do under that law is 'void for vagueness.' The 'Reading of the Riot Act' was intended to clearly state when the right to peacably assemble or to protest crosses the line into a 'riot'.
-------------------- "The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."--Iris Murdoch Posts: 3307 | From: Charleston, WV | Registered: Oct 2002
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