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A Guide to Public Order Offences


Public order offences refer to instances which occur in places accessible to the public and sometimes private places with the presence of violent, disorderly or threatening behaviour. The offences are covered in the Public Order Act 1986 statute with the most serious charge carrying 10 years imprisonment. There are many different sections to public order offences ranging from drunken and disorderly through to riots.

Due to the UK riots which have been taking place, many arrests have been made and alleged offenders have been charged with various public order offences, depending on their involvement. Two of the most serious accusations include riot and violent disorder. Anyone who is charged with a public order offence should contact public order offences solicitors for legal advice.RiotA riot involves 12 or more individuals using unlawful violence or threatening to do so, causing a man of reasonable firmness to have concerns for their safety. The group of individuals usually riot for a common cause as an act of rebellion or protest. Riots can be violence towards people, property or towards the police and other authorities. They usually cause concern for the general public’s safety due to the intensity of the violence from such a large number.

Unlike some public order offences a riot can take place in a private place as well as in public areas; riots carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment/an unlimited fine and are only tried in the Crown Court. For legal advice regarding riot charges, the accused should contact criminal defence solicitors.Violent disorderViolent disorder offences involve the presence of 3 or more individuals using or threatening unlawful violence towards property or people which would cause a man of reasonable firmness to doubt his safety. Violent disorder is an either way offence (can be heard in the Magistrates or Crown Court depending on the circumstances) and carries a maximum penalty in the Magistrates Court of a level 5 fine/six month’s imprisonment. For offences tried in the Crown Court the maximum custodial sentence is five years imprisonment.

Violent disorder charges apply when the crime falls short of the requirements to be tried for a riot offence. The violence can occur in either a private or public place. Violence towards the police, rival gangs fighting using weapons and outbreaks of violence which cause significant disturbance and fear to others who aren’t involved, are all examples of violent disorders.

Legal advice for any public order offences can be sought from criminal defence solicitors.

Other less serious public order offences include: drunk and disorderly, disorderly conduct, disorderly behaviour with harassment, threatening behaviour and affray charges. During the UK riots, public order arrests have been made in large numbers across the country due to the disturbance caused.

Written by Jamie Lyons on behalf of Gray and Co Criminal Defence Solicitors – specialiast Public Order Offence Solicitors.