Public Order Act 1986
Parliament of the United Kingdom
|Long title||An Act to abolish the common law offences of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray and certain statutory offences relating to public order; to create new offences relating to public order.|
|Chapter||1986 c. 64|
|Introduced by||Douglas Hurd|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland|
|Royal Assent||7 November 1986|
|Commencement||1 April 1987|
|Amendments||Football Spectators Act 1989, Broadcasting Act 1990, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Public Order Act 1986 (c 64) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of public order offences. They replace similar common law offences and parts of the Public Order Act 1936. It implements recommendations of the Law Commission.
Part 1 - New offences
- Section 1 - Riot
- Section 2 - Violent disorder
- Section 3 - Affray
- Section 4 - Fear or provocation of violence
- Section 4A - Intentional harassment, alarm or distress
- added by section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
- Section 5 - Harassment, alarm or distress
Section 8 - Interpretation
This section defines the words "dwelling" and "violence".
Section 9 - Offences abolished
Section 9(2) abolished the offences under:
- section 1 of the Tumultuous Petitioning Act 1661
- section 1 of the Shipping Offences Act 1793
- section 23 of the Seditious Meetings Act 1817
- section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936
Part 2 - Processions and assemblies
- Section 11 - Advance notice of public processions
- requires at least 6 clear days' written notice to be given to the police before most public processions, including details of the intended time and route, and giving the name and address of at least one person proposing to organise it; creates offences for the organisers of a procession if they do not give sufficient notice, or if the procession diverges from the notified time or route
- Section 12 - Imposing conditions on public processions
- provides police the power to impose conditions on processions "to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community"
- Section 13 - Prohibiting public processions
- Chief Police Officer has the power to ban public processions up to three months by applying to local authority for a banning order which needs subsequent confirmation from the Home Secretary.
- Section 14 - Imposing conditions on public assemblies
- provides police the power to impose conditions on assemblies "to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community". The conditions are limited to the specifying of:
- the number of people who may take part,
- the location of the assembly, and
- its maximum duration.
- Section 14A -Prohibiting trespassory assemblies
- added by section 70 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, to control "raves"
Section 16 - Public Assembly - Means an assembly of 20 or more persons in a public place which is wholly or partly open to the air.
Parts 3 and 3A- Racial hatred etc.
Part 3 of the Act creates offences of use of words or behaviour or display of written material (section 18), publishing or distributing written material (section 19), public performance of a play (section 20), distributing, showing or playing a recording (section 21), or broadcasting (section 22), if the act is intended to stir up racial hatred, or possession of racially inflammatory material (section 23).
Part 3A was created by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 with the insertion of new sections 29A to 29N. This part created new offences for acts intended to stir up religious hatred. Sections 29B to 29N are to be further amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 when the relevant parts of that act come into force. These further amendments will extend Part 3A to cover intent to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation (to be defined in new section 29AB).
The Act and Article 11 of ECHR
The Act should be considered in connection with Article 11 of European Convention on Human Rights, which grants people the rights of (peaceful) assembly and freedom of association with others.
Misuse of section 14
The Police have been accused of misusing the powers in section 14 on several occasions. During the 2009 G-20 London summit protests journalists were forced to leave the protests by police who threatened them with arrest.
The campaign to reform section 5
The 'Reform Section 5' campaign was established in May 2012 to garner support for an alteration of section 5. The campaign is supported by a range of groups and famous individuals. These include the National Secular Society, the Christian Institute, the Bow Group and the Freedom Association. Actors Rowan Atkinson and Stephen Fry have also voiced their support. Andrew Thorpe-Apps, of the Backbencher, has warned that section 5 poses a serious threat to free speech.
- The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 43 of this Act.
- The Law Commission. Criminal Law: Offences relating to Public Order (Law Com 123). HMSO. 1983.
- Vallée, Marc (2009=04-17). "Journalists on the G20 front line". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
- UK terror laws being misused to obstruct journalists, MPs told
- Thorpe-Apps, Andrew (2012=10-25). "Sleepwalking into an Orwellian Future". thebackbencher.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-10-29.