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Public Order Offences
There are a number of offences relating to actions which take place in public where other people may fear for their personal safety. The seriousness of a public order offence varies depending on the number of people involved and the scale of the words and actions used. If you are accused of a public order offence then the specialist public order offences solicitors at Minton Morrill can provide the expert advice and representation you need.
Offences which are classed as being public order offences are:
This is the most serious public order offence and requires at least 12 people present together to be using or threatening unlawful violence to cause someone else present at the scene to fear for their personal safety. Anyone who encourages, plans, directs or co-ordinates the activities of those rioting can also be charged with the offence. The seriousness of this offence means it can only be dealt with by the Crown Court, with a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.
Violent disorder is similar to rioting but on a smaller scale, requiring at least three people to be taking part together. It can also be committed in a public or private place, although not in someone’s home, and can be directed against people or property. This can include fights in town centres or public bars between three or more people who are using weapons. Violent disorder can be dealt with by the magistrates’ court, where a maximum six-month prison sentence can be imposed, or the Crown Court, where the maximum sentence is five years’ imprisonment.
Affray relates to the threat or use of unlawful violence by an individual towards another person causing them to fear for their personal safety. The threat must consist of more than just words to constitute affray. Magistrates can pass a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment, which increases to a maximum of three years if dealt with by the Crown Court.
Minor public disorder and drunk and disorderly
Generally speaking, disorderly behaviour does not have to include the use or threat of violence and does not necessarily have to include behaviour which is threatening, abusive or insulting. However, it can include causing a disturbance in a residential area, persistently shouting abuse or obscenities at passers-by, rowdy behaviour in the street late at night and causing a disturbance in a public place, such as a shopping precinct. If the person causing the disturbance is found to be drunk then they have committed an offence of drunk and disorderly behaviour. A public disorder offence can also be racially or religiously aggravated, in which case it is likely to be dealt with more severely. Disorderly behaviour can only be dealt with by magistrates but can lead to a prison sentence.
Incitement to racial or religious hatred
This relates using threatening words or behaviour to stir up racial or religious hatred. Legislation relating to religious hatred is relatively new and includes hatred against a group defined by their religious belief or lack of religious belief. Sentences vary depending on the circumstances, but can include community orders, fines or prison.
Separate legislation exists for public order offences committed in football stadia, before, during or after games. Please see our separate section on football hooliganism.
At Minton Morrill, our specialist criminal law solicitors are highly experienced in representing individuals facing public order offence charges. If you should find yourself in this situation then it is important to seek expert legal advice immediately before entering a plea.
To find out how our specialist public order offences solicitors in Leeds, Yorkshire and the North of England can help you, please contact us.
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