Public order offences include a wide range of situations. Public Order Offences usually refer to the use of, or threat of violence or harassment towards someone else, in a public place. Crimes related to a public order offence include:
s1 Public Order Act 1986 - Riot
Riot is the most serious offence under the Public Order Act 1986. A riot is defined as twelve or more people acting with 'common purpose' using or threatening violence. They must behave in such a way that the average person would be afraid that violence would be used against them. These cases can only be tried in the crown court, where if convicted one could be given a maximum sentence of 10 years.
s2 Public Order Act 1986 - Violent Disorder
An offence of violent disorder is committed where three or more people present together are accused of causing the same offence as a riot. Violent disorder is viewed very seriously by the courts, cases can be heard in the magistrates court or the crown court although they are usually sent to the crown court where the maximum prison sentence is five years.
s3 Public Order Act 1986 -Affray
Affray involves two or more people using or threatening unlawful violence towards another person and their behaviour is such that an average person present at the scene would have feared for their safety. Affray cases may be heard in the magistrates and crown court, and the maximum sentence is 3 years imprisonment.
s4(1) Public Order Act 1986 - Fear or Provocation of Violence
This offence is caused by the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour (which may include writing or other visible representation) towards another, with the intention of causing them to believe that unlawful violence would be used against them. This offence carries a maximum of 6 months imprisonment or a fine up to £5000. If the offence is racially or religiously aggravated the offence carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment in the magistrates court, and up to 2 years in the crown court.
s4A Public Order Act 1986 - Harassment, Alarm or Distress with Intent
A person must act in an abusive way towards another using threats or insults and intend to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment or a fine up to £5000. Offences which are racially or religiously aggravated may attract a sentence of up to 2 years imprisonment in the crown court.
s5 Public Order Act 1986 - Disorderly Behaviour
An offence is committed if a person uses threatening, abusive or insulting words/gestures within hearing distance or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress as a result. A general defence of the behaviour being reasonable in the circumstances may be available to the defendant. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a £1000 fine. Where the offence is racially or religiously aggravated the fine may be increased up to a maximum of £2500.
Drunk and Disorderly Act
Under s91 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 it is an offence to be drunk and disorderly in a public place.