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Public Order Offences

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DPP Law has a team dedicated to taking actions against the police and ensuring that officers have complied with the law. We have made numerous successful claims for wrongful arrest on behalf of clients who have been mistakenly detained for a public order act crime. Through the examination of the evidence used by the prosecution as well as CCTV, mobile phone footage and witness accounts, we can help you to build a powerful defence.

The term “public order offence” is used to describe acts of violence or intimidation in public and serves as a means for the police to keep the peace. Because an act that amounts to a Public Order Act crime is highly likely to take place on a busy street or other areas of higher footfall, however, this is one of the more difficult areas of law to prosecute.

For example, if 20 people are taking part in acts that could be considered a riot and you pass through that area, you could be wrongly thought to be taking part by the arresting police officer. In cases such as this, seeking assistance from legal experts is the best way to form clear arguments in your defence.

Implications of Public Order Act Crime Accusations

The Public Order Act 1986 covers a sizeable range of offences, all of which are punishable in different ways. A section 4 Public Order Act punishment, which refers to the offence of fear or provocation of violence, for example, may constitute up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine capped at £5,000, or both.

A section 5 Public Order act punishment, relating to harassment or the causing of alarm or distress, on the other hand, can only be a fine of no more than £1,000.

Affray sentencing guidelines – relevant to those accused of fighting or display of force against one or more people, along with the physical threat of violence – state that a person found guilty can be jailed for up to 3 years as a maximum punishment.

Violent disorder sentencing guidelines, on the other hand, refer to the punishment afforded on occasions where three or more people who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence in a manner that would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.

This can extend to up to 5 years if the case is tried in a Crown Court and up to 6 months if tried at a Magistrate’s Court, as this is considered an either-way offence.

For full information regarding punishments for public order offences, see the Sentencing Council’s guidelines here.

Related Offences

The following offences fall under the legislation of the Public Order Act 1986:

  • Riot
  • Violent disorder
  • Affray
  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour
  • Breach of the peace
  • Fear or provocation of violence
  • Harassment or the causing of alarm or distress
  • Unlawful protest
  • Assaults on emergency workers
  • Inciting racial or religious hatred
  • Racially or religiously aggravated assault
  • Contamination of or interference with goods with intention of causing public alarm or anxiety

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a public order offence?

The Crown Prosecution Service defines a public order offence as an act that involves the use of violence and/or intimidation by individuals or groups.

What are some examples of public order offences?

Individuals accused of rioting, affray, drunk and disorderly behaviour, inciting racial or religious hatred or assaulting emergency workers are all likely to be detained under the Public Order Act 1986. If found guilty, they may be subject to punishments detailed within violent disorder sentencing guidelines – which may see them jailed for up to 5 years, affray sentencing guidelines, which comes with a maximum prison term of 3 years. Rioting carries the heaviest possible punishment, with the threat of a potential 10 years behind bars.

DPP Law can assist you in numerous ways if you are arrested for public order offences. If you have been wrongly arrested, our solicitors will prepare a strong case against the police and work hard to prove your innocence. If the prosecution is calling for affray sentencing guidelines to be utilised when you were not part of a group behaving violently, we will present compelling evidence in order to reduce your sentence or see you acquitted.

Whatever your circumstances, contact us today for legal support and representation.

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