Brawling (legal definition)

Brawling (legal definition)

Brawling (probably connected with Ger. brüllen, to roar,shout), in law, the offence of quarrelling, or creating a disturbancein a church or churchyard. During the early stagesof the Reformation in England religious controversy too often became converted into actual disturbance, and the ritual lawlessnessof the clergy very frequently provoked popularviolence. To repress these disturbances an act was passed in
1551, by which it was enacted:"that if any person shall, by words only, quarrel, chide or brawl in any church or churchyard, it shall be lawful for the ordinary of the place where the same shall be done and proved by two lawful witnesses, to suspend any person so offending, if he be a layman, from the entrance of the church, and if he be a clerk, from the ministration of his office, for so long as the said ordinary shall think meet, according to the fault."An act of 1553 added the punishment ofimprisonment until the party should repent. The act of 1551was partly repealed in 1828 and wholly repealed as regardslaymen by the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860.Under that act, which applies to Ireland as well as to England,persons guilty of riotous, violent or indecent behaviour, inchurches and chapels of the Church of England or Ireland, or inany chapel of any religious denomination, or in England in anyplace of religious worship duly certified, or in churchyards orburial-grounds, are liable on conviction before two justices to apenalty of not more than £5, or imprisonment for any term notexceeding two months. This enactment applies to clergy as wellas to laity, and a clergyman of the Church of England convictedunder it may also be dealt with under the Clergy Discipline Actof 1892 (Girt v. Fillingham, 1901, L.R. Prob. 176). When Mr
J. Kensit during an ordination service in St Paul's cathedral"objected" to one of the candidates for ordination, on groundswhich did not constitute an impediment or notable crime withinthe meaning of the ordination service, he was held to haveunlawfully disturbed the bishop of London in the conduct of theservice, and to be liable to conviction under the act of 1860(Kensit v. Dean and Chapter of St Paul's, 1905, L.R. 2 K.B. 249).The public worship of Protestant Dissenters, Roman Catholicsand Jews in England had before 1860 been protected by a seriesof statutes beginning with the Toleration Act of 1689, and endingwith the Liberty of Religious Worship Act 1855. These enactments,though not repealed, are for practical purposes supersededby the summary remedy given by the act of 1860. In Scotlanddisturbance of public worship is punishable as a breach of the peace (Dougall v. Dykes, 1861, 4 Irvine 101).

In British possessions abroad interference with religious worshipis usually dealt with by legislation, and not as a common-lawoffence. In India it is an offence voluntarily to cause disturbanceto any assembly lawfully engaged in the performanceof religious worship or religious ceremonies (Penal Code, s. 296).Under the Queensland Criminal Code of 1899 (s. 207) penaltiesare imposed on persons who wilfully and without lawful justificationor excuse (the proof of which lies on them) disquiet ordisturb any meeting of persons lawfully assembled for religiousworship, or assault any forces lawfully officiating at such meeting,or any of the persons there assembled.

In the United States disturbance of religious worship is treatedas an offence under the common law, which is in many statessupplemented by legislation (see Bishop, Amer. Crim. Law,8th ed. 1892, vol. i. s. 542, vol. ii. ss. 303-305; CaliforniaPenal Code, s. 302; Revised Laws of Massachusetts, 1902,chap. 212, s. 30.).



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