Public order offences include a wide spectrum of incidents and actions, ranging from being drunk and disorderly in a public place to rioting and widespread civil unrest.
Many of the offences are commonly referred to by their Section of the Public Order Act 1986. Offences contrary to Section 4, Section 4A or Section 5 of the Public Order Act frequently come before the Magistrates Court. In most cases, unless there are strong aggravating features, the Court will consider a Community Order as a suitable sentence.
However the more serious public order offences such as affray or violent disorder are often too serious for the Magistrates Court’s sentencing powers, and are dealt with by the Crown Court instead. These offences, together with riot which is so serious that only the Crown Court can deal with such a case, are frequently dealt with by prison sentences.
If you are accused of committing a public order offence, no matter what level of behaviour is alleged, it is important that you have clear and reliable legal advice throughout your case. Sometimes the differences between these offences are subtle, and can make a significant difference to the outcome of a case.
For more information on key issues about public order offences, please see the following pages: