Public Order

Public Order

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Legislation:

Basic offences: Public Order Act 1986, s.4 and s.5.

Racially/religiously aggravated offence: Crime and Disorder Act 1998, s.31.

Definition:

Basic offences:

s.4(1) – Using towards another threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour (or disrupting or displaying to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation being threatening, abusive or insulting) intending to cause that other person to believe that immediate unlawful violence would be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another or whereby that other person was likely to believe that such violence would be used or it was likely that such violence would be provoked.

s.4Awith intent to cause harassment, alarm and distress, using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displaying any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting.

s.5 – Using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour (or disrupting or displaying to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation being threatening, abusive or insulting) within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

Racially/religiously aggravated offence:

s.31 – Racially or religiously aggravate threats, abuse or insulting or disorderly behaviour.

Explanation:

s.4 offences are the more serious than s.5 offences, and carrier a slightly higher sentence.  This is because of the added element of intent.

s.5 is the basic offence.

s.31 is the most serious of the above offences and is a specified violent offence under Sch 15, pt 1 of the CJA 2003.

Mode of trial: Summary only, but for s.31 offences which are either-way.

Maximum sentence:

s.4(1)               –          level 5 fine and/or 6 months

s.4A                –          level 4 fine and/or 6 months

s.5                   –          level 3 fine

s.31                 –          Summary:       level 5 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment / Indictment:     unlimited fine and/or 2 years imprisonment

CPS guidance can be found here 

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Sara is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers practising in crime.

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