Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make further provision in relation to criminal justice (including employment in the prison service); to amend or extend the criminal law and powers for preventing crime and enforcing that law; to amend the Video Recordings Act 1984; and for purposes connected with those purposes.
Citation1994 c. 33
Introduced byMichael Howard
Territorial extent England & Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Royal assent3 November 1994
CommencementMultiple dates
Other legislation
Amended byCrime and Disorder Act 1998
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It introduced a number of changes to the law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights, clamping down on unlicensed rave parties, and greater penalties for certain "anti-social" behaviours. The Bill was introduced by Michael Howard, Home Secretary of Prime Minister John Major's Conservative government, and attracted widespread opposition.


A primary motivation for the act was to curb illegal raves and free parties, especially the traveller festival circuit, which was steadily growing in the early 1990s, culminating in the 1992 Castlemorton Common Festival.[1] Following debates in the House of Commons in its aftermath,[2] Prime Minister John Major alluded to a future clampdown with then Home Secretary Ken Clarke at that year's Conservative Party conference.[3] At the 1993 conference, Michael Howard, who had become Home Secretary, announced details of the new Criminal Justice Bill.[4]

Despite protests and discord against the bill, the opposition Labour Party took an official line to abstain at the third reading,[5] and the Act passed into law on 3 November 1994.

Key measures[edit]

Key measures of the act that received public attention included:

  • Part III, sections 34–39 which substantially changed the right to silence of an accused person, allowing for inferences to be drawn from their silence.
  • Part IV, sections 54–59 which gave the police greater rights to take and retain intimate body samples.
  • Part IV, section 60 which increased police powers of unsupervised stop and search.[6]
  • The whole of Part V covered collective trespass and nuisance on land and included sections against raves and further sections against disruptive trespass, squatters, and unauthorised campers – most significantly the criminalisation of previously civil offences. This affected many forms of protest including hunt sabotage and anti-road protests. Sections 63–67 in particular defined any gathering of 20 or more people where:

    63(1)(b) "music" includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.

  • Part V, section 80 which repealed the duty imposed on councils by the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to provide sites for gypsy and traveller use. Grant aid for the provision of sites was also withdrawn.[7]
  • Part VII, which handled "Obscenity and Pornography", banning simulated child pornography, harshening provisions dealing with the censorship and age restriction of videos (as administered by the British Board of Film Classification BBFC), and also increasing the penalty on obscene phone calls.
  • Part XI, which dealt with sexual offences. The definition of rape was extended to include anal rape, previously prosecuted as buggery. This offence was disestablished, as Section 143 - though not given much consideration - legalised anal sex between heterosexual couples over the age of 18. It had been legal for homosexual couples over the age of 21 since 1967. Section 145 lowered the age at which homosexual acts were legal, from 21 years to 18: this latter provision was introduced in the Bill after an amendment by Anthony Durant to that effect had passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 427 to 162 (a majority of 265). In the House of Lords, an attempt to remove section 145 (and as such retain 21 as the age of consent for gay sex) was rejected by a vote of 176 to 113 (a majority of 63).[8] During consideration of the Bill, another amendment, introduced by Edwina Currie, which would have further reduced the age of consent for homosexual acts to 16 (thereby equating it with that for heterosexual sex), ended up failing 280–307 (a majority of 27). Analysis of the division list revealed that 42 Conservative MPs had supported equalisation, and the motion would have been carried but for the opposing votes of 38 Labour MPs.[9][10] In the House of Lords Baron McIntosh also tried to introduce a provision equalizing the age of consent, but was not successful, with his motion ultimately failing 73–245 (a majority of 172).[11]
  • Part XII, which was a miscellany, and included the notice that the "Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. (was henceforth) to be arrestable", although this was later to be modified by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Part XII also criminalised the use of cells from embryos and foetuses.

Opposition and protest[edit]

March against the Criminal Justice Bill, London, July 1994.

Whilst the legislation was still under debate, the groups Advance Party and Freedom Network coordinated a campaign of resistance. The group was composed of an alliance of sound systems and civil liberties groups.[12] A movement against the bill grew across "the overlapping squatting, road protest and free party scenes".[2]

Three demonstrations were organised in London throughout 1994. The first of these took place on 1 May (May Day), with an estimated 20,000 people taking part in a march starting at Hyde Park and finishing at Trafalgar Square.[2] The second, on 24 July, followed the same route with numbers estimated between 20,000 and 50,000.[13][14] The larger turnout was partly attributed to a mobilisation from the Socialist Workers Party and with them placards reading "Kill the Bill", but it also created a degree of "political tension" with the other founding groups.[2][15]

The third demonstration was called on 9 October,[14][2] with police estimating 20,000 to 30,000 people attending, while organisers put the figure at over 100,000. The day ended in a riot in Hyde Park that continued into the evening.[16] Accounts stated that, around 5 pm, a confrontation occurred between protesters and police when protesters attempted to bring two sound systems into the park. With such a large number of protesters, the police were overpowered and backed off. Riot and mounted police reinforcements arrived shortly afterwards, and reportedly charged at protesters in an attempt to disperse the estimated 1,500-person crowd.[17]

The civil liberties group Liberty opposed many of the measures proposed by the act at the time, regarding them as "wrong in principle and likely to violate the European Convention on Human Rights".[18]


Jon Savage, author of books on youth culture, said of the legislation in Bill form, "It's about politicians making laws on the basis of judging people's lifestyles, and that's no way to make laws".[19] George Monbiot described it as "crude, ill-drafted and repressive".[20] The Act was described by Professor of Cultural Studies Jeremy Gilbert as a "piece of legislation which was "explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture", the main targets being squatting, direct action, football fan culture, hunt sabotage and the free party.[21]

The sections which specifically refer to parties or raves were, according to Professor of Sociology Nigel South, "badly defined and drafted" in an atmosphere of moral panic following the Castlemorton Common Festival.[22][23] The law's attempt to define music in terms of "repetitive beats" was described as "bizarre" by Professor of Law Robert Lee.[1]

Reflecting on the time, the journalist Ally Fogg wrote in The Guardian:

Few listened to our warnings then. After all, we were just a bunch of social outcasts with silly hats and questionable personal hygiene. Beyond some welcome support from Liberty and a handful of progressive trades unions, we stood pretty much alone against the whole political and media establishment. This most draconian and illiberal of Conservative laws could only eventually pass through parliament because a young shadow home secretary shocked almost everyone by deciding not to oppose the bill at the final reading. At the time it was assumed that he decided to let the bill through so as not to look soft on crime, or hand a propaganda victory to the Tories. In doing so, he sacrificed several cornerstones of British civil liberties on the altar of political expediency. His name? Tony Blair. Fifteen years on, there is little pleasure to be gained from saying "we told you so". But the manner in which a law designed to prevent the wholesale mayhem of Castlemorton can now be used to foreclose a birthday party should serve as a stark warning to those currently considering a raft of other illiberal legislation, from the coroners and justice bill to the various ID card proposals. Those who deride the contributors to liberty central when they warn about the incessant creep of police powers, or who scoff at "slippery slope" arguments around civil liberties, should bear in mind that we stood at the top of one of those slopes only 15 short years ago, and we have slid a long way down it since.[24]

Response from musicians[edit]

The British IDM duo Autechre released the three-track Anti EP in support of the advocacy group Liberty. The EP contained "Flutter", a song composed to contravene the definition of music in the Act as "repetitive beats" by using 65 distinctive drum patterns. The EP bore a warning advising DJs to "have a lawyer and a musicologist present at all times to confirm the non-repetitive nature of the music in the event of police harassment".[25]

The fifth mix on the Internal version of Orbital's Are We Here? EP was titled "Criminal Justice Bill?". It consisted of approximately four minutes of silence. In their 1995 track Sad But New, Orbital incorporated samples from John Major's 1992 conference speech.[26]

"Their Law", a song by electronic dance acts the Prodigy and Pop Will Eat Itself, was written as a direct response to the bill.[27] A quotation in the booklet of the Prodigy's 1994 album Music for the Jilted Generation read "How can the government stop young people having a good time? Fight this bollocks." The album featured a drawing commissioned by the band from Les Edwards depicting a young male rebel figure protecting a rave from an impending attack of riot police.[28]

In 1993, the band Dreadzone released a single, "Fight the Power", in opposition to the proposed Criminal Justice Bill, featuring samples from Noam Chomsky discussing taking action and "taking control of your lives", advocating political resistance to the proposed bill.[29] The track also features on a 1994 compilation Taking Liberties, released to raise funds to fight the bill. The B-side to Zion Train's 1995 "Dance of Life" single included a track entitled "Resist the Criminal Justice Act".

The Six6 Records compilation album NRB:58 No Repetitive Beats (1994) was released in opposition to the proposed Bill. The album's liner notes said:

For every copy of No Repetitive Beats sold Network will pay a royalty to D.I.Y. / All Systems No! (an advance payment of £3,000 was made before the release of the album). The monies will be used by D.I.Y. / All Systems No! towards the cost of a sound system which will be on hand to replace any sound equipment seized by the police using draconian powers granted to them by the Criminal Justice Bill to stop music "wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats". The Bill is unjust and tramples across common sense and civil rights. If you want to help throw the CJB out contact the human rights organisation Liberty. Fight for your right to party.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chester, Jerry (28 May 2017). "The rave that changed the law". BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Revolt of the Ravers – The Movement against the Criminal Justice Act in Britain 1993-95". Datacide. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  3. ^ "John Major – 1992 Conservative Party Conference Speech". 30 November 2015.
  4. ^ Colin Brown (7 October 1993). "Howard seeks to placate 'angry majority': Home Secretary tells party that balance in criminal justice system will be tilted towards public". The Independent.
  5. ^ Colin Brown (25 March 1994). "Labour in split over crime Bill". The Independent.
  6. ^ Rachel Taylor (6 February 2014). "Section 60: a most draconian stop-and-search law that plays to police prejudice". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Jake Bowers (5 June 2002). "No room to move". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill (1994)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 20 June 1994. col. 59. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  9. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 21 Feb 1994".
  10. ^ "Gay Age of Consent: Currie needed just 14 Labour supporters: 'Noes' from opposition parties that were natural supporters of equality amendment are focus of recriminations". The Independent. 23 February 1994.
  11. ^ "Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill (1994)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 20 June 1994. col. 49. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  12. ^ Brewster B. & Broughton F. (1999) Last Night a Dj Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, Page 373, Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3688-5
  13. ^ Parker, Rosey. "Demo against the Criminal Justice Bill". Eternity Magazine: Issue 21, August 1994. pp. 58–59.
  14. ^ a b "Marching against the Criminal Justice Act, July 1994". History Is Made at Night. 30 August 2013.
  15. ^ Matt Smith (28 February 2016). "2nd Anti Criminal Justice Bill October '94".
  16. ^ "Blame disputed after demo violence". The Guardian. 10 October 1994.
  17. ^ Danny Penman (11 October 1994). "The Park Lane Riot: How Park Lane was turned into a battlefield". The Independent.
  18. ^ "Howard's way proved unfair -- the controversial Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is gradually being redressed by the UK and European courts". The Law Society Gazette. 18 May 2000.
  19. ^ The Faber Book of Pop (1995), ed. Hanif Koureshi and Jon Savage, p. 799
  20. ^ George Monbiot (21 February 1997). "Multi-issue Politics".>
  21. ^ Gilbert J. Discographies: Dance Music, Culture, and the Politics of Sound, Page 150, Routledge 1999, ISBN 0-415-17032-X
  22. ^ ed. South N. (1999) Drugs: Cultures, Controls and Everyday Life, Page 30, SAGE Publications ISBN 0-7619-5235-7
  23. ^ Meaden, B. (2006) TRANCENational ALIENation Page 19, Lulu, ISBN 1-4116-8543-1
  24. ^ Ally Fogg (21 July 2009). "The prophecy of 1994". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Pattison, Louis (21 July 2014). "How the Political Warning of Autechre's Anti EP Made it a Warp Records Classic". Vice. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  26. ^ "Orbital Interview". 1 December 2017.
  27. ^ Finchett-Maddock, Lucy (7 July 2015). "Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centres and Eviction Resistance in the Fight Against Expropriation". Critical Legal Thinking.
  28. ^ Psaar, Hans-Christian (28 January 2009). "Commodities for the Jilted Generation". Datacide. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  29. ^ Rhian Jones: Clampdown: Pop-cultural Wars on Class and Gender. Zero Books 2013, ISBN 978-1-780-99708-7
  30. ^ Liner notes, NRB:58 No Repetitive Beats, NRB58CD, Six6 Records

External links[edit]