Charged with a Public Order Offence?
Qamars Criminal Defence Lawyers can help
If you are under investigation for a public order offence, whether it’s disturbing the peace or serious rioting, the criminal defence lawyers at Qamar Solicitors are highly experienced in representing clients charged with such offences. We can also assist if you are in breach of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) or Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) and you want to know what may happen next.
Public disorder can take a variety of forms including rioting and street fighting, violent disorder, football related breaches of the peace, and other anti-social behaviour. Public disorder is any conduct considered to be an act compromising the safety of others or prevents society from being able to function in normally.
The Public Order Act 1986
This is the main Act of Parliament introduced to deal with public disturbances and to protect the community.
What are the main offences?
- Rioting (Section 1 of the Act): where at least twelve people are gathered and use (or threaten to use) violence in such a way as to make others feel their own personal safety is at risk. Rioting is dealt with in the Crown Court. A maximum sentence of 10 years may be imposed on conviction
- Violent disorder (section 2):group violence on a smaller group: where three or more people use (or threaten to use) violence in such a way as to make others feel their own personal safety is at risk. It can be heard in the Crown Court or Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence in the Crown Court is 5 years
- Affray (section 3): when two or more people fight in public and make other people at the scene feel their personal safety is at risk. Affray can be heard in the Magistrates and Crown Courts, and carries a maximum of 3 years’ imprisonment
- Fear or provocation of violence (Section 4): threatening, abusing or insulting another person with violent words or behaviour. It will be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court and a sentence of up to 6 months and or a fine of up to £5000 may be imposed
- Threatening of abusive behaviour (section 5): where words, behaviour, or even gestures or signs, are used where the defendant believes someone may be within hearing, and causes them harassment, alarm or distress. It includes drunk and disorderly behaviour, arson, drugs offences, vandalism, intimidation and racism. This is commonly dealt with by Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). The maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment. The offence can only be heard in the Magistrates Court.
Where any of these offences has a racial element, they will be treated as racially aggravated and will attract a more severe punishment.
ASBOs and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts
The authorities may use alternative ways to tackle a variety of forms of anti-social behaviour such as joyriding, graffiti, harassment, substance misuse and prostitution. ASBOs and ABCs are typically used:
- An ASBO is imposed by the court to control the behaviour of an individual. Breaching the terms of an ASBO is treated very seriously, and can lead to a prison sentence
- An ABC is a less formal agreement between a young person and (usually) a local authority to control the behaviour of an individual. Breaching an ABC may lead to an ASBO being imposed
The Human Rights Act
Sometimes during an investigation, a person suspected of a public order offence will have his or her human rights compromised. The police frequently have a fine balancing act to achieve when protecting the public but they don’t always get it right. We will strive to ensure you are treated fairly; and we will help you take firm action against the police if your civil liberties are breached.
How can we help?
It is important to contact us as early as possible if you are under investigation for a public order offence. Being part of a group does not necessarily make you guilty of an offence but you may be caught up in a situation where you face an investigation and possible prosecution. We will consider all the circumstances and the evidence against you, providing a robust defence against a charge wherever possible.
The criminal defence lawyers at Qamar Solicitors can advise you on all aspects of public order investigations and offences and we will work with you to ensure your rights are fully protected.