Public Order

Clarkson Hirst Solicitors Limited

Public Order Act 1986

A brief explanation of each can be found below:

  1. Section 1 of the Public Order Act – RiotThis is the more serious of the Public Order offences which applies where 12 or more people acting with the common purpose use or threaten violence. This is an indictable offence which must be heard in the Crown Court. The maximum sentence is 10 years.Examples of this occurred in London, Manchester and other cities in the summer of 2011. These riots affected a lot of the cities in the UK. Our Lancaster firm dealt with some cases that came out of the rioting. Although the majority of people were dealt with for Theft, Looting etc.
  2. Section 2 of the Public Order Act – Violent DisorderThis applies where there is 3 or more people involved acting with a common purpose to use or threaten violence. This is an either way offence that can be heard in the Crown Court or the Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence in the Crown Court is 5 years. An example of this type of offence is where disorder is found at a football match.
  3. Section 3 of the Public Order Act – AffrayThis is one of the most common Public Order offences that a person may find themselves charged with. This involves two or more people involved in behaviour that would cause a person to fear for their own safety. This is a subjective test as this does not need to be somebody that is there but merely if a person was to pass and see the disorderly conduct would feel afraid. This offence can be heard in the Magistrates or the Crown Court as it is an either way offence. In the Crown Court the maximum imprisonment is 3 years.
  4. Section 4a & Section 4.1 of the Public Order Act – Intentional Harassment, Alarm or DistressTo be convicted of this offence a person must intend to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person and doing so must act in a way in which is abusive, threatening or insulting. There is a Section 4.1(a) which include causing a person to fear that violence would occur. These offences are both summary only offences which means they are dealt with in the Magistrates Court and the maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment. Example of Section 4 Public Order Offences can be seen most weekends on a Saturday night out when people have consumed a lot of alcohol and altercations take place for example outside a nightclub.
  5. Section 5 Public Order Act – Threatening, Abusive or Insulting BehaviourThis is the lesser of the Public Order offences and is not an imprisonable offence. This is normally dealt with by way of a conditional discharge or a financial penalty depending on any previous convictions. The offence involves the use of words, behaviour and even gestures or signs that, in a persons opinion, is threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour. For example giving the ‘V’ sign to a bus full of people could be seen as a Section 5 Public Order offence.Racially aggravated offencesThe above Public Order offences can have a racially aggravated element attached. If this is the case then harsher sentences will be given for the racially aggravated element.