The Public Order Act contains most offences involving behaviour which affects order in public places. There are 5 levels of public order offences and a brief explanation of each is included below.
Section 1: Riot: this is the most serious offence. It involves 12 or more people acting together in a violent manner for a common purpose. These cases can only be tried by the Crown Court and attract a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
Section 2: Violent Disorder: This involves 3 or more people acting together in a violent manner for a common person, and can be committed in a public or private place. These cases can be tried in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court, although usually these cases are serious enough to warrant a Crown Court trial. The maximum sentence is 5 years imprisonment, although in less serious cases a suspended sentence or community order is a possibility.
Section 3: Affray: This involves acting violently towards another person, such that an ordinary person present at the scene would fear for his or her personal safety. Throwing a brick, waving a knife or having a fight in the street could amount to an Affray. These cases can be tried in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court, although they are usually serious enough to warrant a Crown Court trial. The maximum sentence is 3 years imprisonment
Section 4: Using Threatening Words and Behaviour: Examples of actions which amount to this offence are threats made to members of the public or public officials carrying out their duties, or throwing missiles at a public gathering where no injury is caused. This offence can only be tried by magistrates and carries a maximum penalty of 6 months. Other sentences for this offence include financial penalty or community punishment.
Section 5: Disorderly conduct: An example of an action that amounts to this offence would be shouting or swearing at a police officer. Before an arrest for this offence takes place, there needs to be a warning that you would be arrested if your behaviour continues. This offence can only be tried in the Magistrates Court and you cannot be sentenced to a prison term for this offence which is usually dealt with by a fine.
If you have been accused of public order offence contact BSB Solicitors, Criminal Lawyers London