Whakatane police on district court duty abandoned their posts inside the Whakatane District Court after a brawl erupted on the street outside this morning.
A large number of people were at the courthouse just before 11am for today's judge's list.
Several became involved when an altercation developed between two groups of people out the front of the courthouse.
The brawling group went from the front of the courthouse, across Pyne St and finished near a car park.
Police armed with pepper spray came from the courthouse and the police station directly across the road.
Once the groups had been separated some of the people involved were rinsing their eyes with water and spitting onto the ground after coming into contact with the pepper spray.
A police spokesperson said people involved in the brawl were being interviewed but it was expected charges would be laid.