Public order offences are mostly covered by the Public Order Act 1986. They are crimes that are considered to breach the peace, and they may include crimes committed against individuals, property, or groups of people. In recent years, public order offences have hit the headlines especially following the London riots in 2011. As well as rioting, there is a wide range of other offences that are covered by this act and subsequent amendments.
Riot cases can only be heard in the Crown Court, and they are considered the most serious of public order offences. However, a number of factors must be proven by the prosecution, including that there was a large group of people that used unlawful violence and that this caused a person of reasonable firmness to be afraid for their personal safety. A lawyer can help build a defence against any of the numerous elements that need to be proven.
Violent Disorder And Affray
Violent disorder is similar to the charge of riot, but where it must be proven that twelve people were involved in rioting, the prosecution need only prove that three people were involved in a violent disorder charge. The offence may have taken place in a public or private place, so a disturbance in a bar or pub may be tried as violent disorder. Affrays are less serious again, and may involve a small fight or disturbance, which could nonetheless cause someone to fear for their safety.
Disorderly behaviour is the use of threatening language or words in certain circumstances which make it criminal. Physical violence does not need to occur in order for disorderly behaviour to be proven or tried, but there does need to be evidence that the behaviour has caused harassment, alarm or distress.
Vandalism or criminal damage often accompanies public order offences. In some cases protesters are accused of criminal damage when they take direct action against companies or organisations they disagree with.
There may also be conspiracies to riot or commit criminal damage inside prisons or detention centres, and this may be viewed as very serious.
Criminal damage by arson may also be taken seriously by courts and prosecutors.
If you have been charged or are facing charges for any form of public order offence, call us to ensure that you receive high quality legal representation.