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Section 4 Public Order Act

Section 4 Public Order, Intentionally Causing Fear or Provocation of Violence, Threatening Behaviour

Section 4 threatening behaviour is among the more common public order offences in the English criminal justice system. The offence is commonly referred to by its section number of the Public Order Act 1986.

If you are accused of committing threatening behaviour contrary to section 4, the Prosecution must prove that:

  • You have used threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or displayed a sign that is threatening or insulting, and either
    • Intended that another person would believe unlawful violence would be used against them, or
    • Intended to provoke another person to use unlawful violence

This offence is often used by the police to deal with situations where 2 people are acting aggressively toward each other, but have not yet committed an assault.

The key issue in a section 4 case is what the intention of the defendant was. Without the intention of causing either the fear or provocation of unlawful violence, section 4 threatening behaviour can not be proved.

Threatening behaviour contrary to section 4 is a summary only offence. This means that is can only be heard by the Magistrates Court, where the maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment. Many convictions for threatening behaviour result in non-custodial sentences, such as Community Orders.

If you are accused of committing a section 4 Public Order Act offence, it is crucial that you have expert advice from a specialist criminal defence lawyer. Contact us to see if we can help you find an experienced solicitor or barrister for your case.

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Every case is unique, and everybody’s circumstances are different. If you are dealing with any of the offences discussed on this site, and need independent advice or a second opinion, contact us to see if we can help.