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Public Order Offences

Public order offences range from low-level offences such as threatening behaviour to serious offences such as affray.

The offences usually relate to the use of, or threat of violence or harassment towards someone else, in a public place.

Remember, if you are arrested for a public order offence, and the police want to interview you under caution, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can advise and represent you free of charge at the police station. It’s your legal right to have access to legal representation at the police station.

Call our 24h helpline

07912 784485

Public order offences are many and varied.

The law relating to them can be intricate and complex; that’s why you should always seek independent legal advice before answering any questions by the police.

Riot: Section 1 Public Order Act 1986

This is an indictable only offence and can only be dealt with at the Crown Court. It carries a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

A riot occurs when:

  • Twelve or more people are together
  • The group were threatening to use unlawful violence
  • The violence was connected with a common purpose
  • A reasonably firm person would fear for their safety
Affray: Section 3 Public Order Act

This is an either way offence that can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. In the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence for one offence would be six months custody. Most cases of affray are dealt with in the Crown Court. The maximum sentence is three years imprisonment.

Affray occurs when:

  • Two or more people are involved
  • They use or threaten violence towards another
  • A reasonably firm person would fear for their safety
Intentional Harassment, Alarm or Distress: Section 4A Public Order Act 1986

This offence is caused using abusive behaviour towards someone by using threats and insults. 

This is a summary only offence and can only be dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence is six months imprisonment unless racial threats are made.

If racial threats were made, the offence then becomes an either way offence and can also be heard at the Crown Court. The maximum sentence in the Crown Court is two years. 

Threatening Behaviour: Section 4 Public Order Act 1986

The offence occurs when:

  • Using behaviour that is threatening, abusive or insulting towards another person
  • They intended to cause them to believe that immediate violence will be used against them, or to provoke unlawful force of another person.

 The offence carries a maximum sentence of six months custody in the Magistrates’ Court. If it is racially motivated, it can also be heard at the Crown Court and carry a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.

Why should I choose Castle Solicitors?

We understand

24 hours a day you can contact us if you require legal advice.

We’re experienced

We don’t like losing, so if matters do go to trial, you’re guaranteed a solicitor who has a successful track record.

We win

Our goal is always to get the very best result for our clients, whether that be the police taking no further action, preventing someone from receiving a custodial sentence or clearing a client’s name with an acquittal after trial.

What should I do now?

Contact us by calling on 0121 226 3636, emailing admin@castlesolicitors.co.uk or even sending a message from this website on the contact page. We will call you back as soon as possible (usually within 2 hours) but in any event no later than 24 hours.

For emergencies, you can also contact our 24-hour helpline on 07912 784485


If you have been arrested to simply ask for Castle Solicitors at the police station and we will receive the call. 

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