Public Order Act 1936
|Long title||An Act to prohibit the wearing of uniforms in connection with political objects and the maintenance by private persons of associations of military or similar character; and to make further provision for the preservation of public order on the occasion of public processions and meetings and in public places.|
|Citation||1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6 c. 6|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales and Scotland|
|Royal assent||18 December 1936|
|Commencement||1 January 1937|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Public Order Act 1936 (1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6 c. 6) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed to control extremist political movements in the 1930s such as the British Union of Fascists (BUF).
Largely the work of Home Office civil servant Frank Newsam, the Act banned the wearing of political uniforms in any public place or public meeting. (The first conviction under the Act was of William Henry Wood, by Leeds Magistrates' Court on 27 January 1937.) It also required police consent for political marches to go ahead (now covered by the Public Order Act 1986). The Act also prohibited organising, training or equipping an "association of persons ... for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police or of the armed forces of the Crown", or "for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object".
The Act had the indirect result of actually improving the fortunes of the BUF. Its forced abandonment of paramilitary and armed tactics improved the party's relations with the police and, by making it more "respectable", increased the BUF appeal among traditionally conservative middle-class citizens, who became the party's main base in the years after the Public Order Act 1936 was passed.
The Act was used extensively against IRA and Sinn Féin demonstrations in the 1970s, though the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland. In November 1974, 12 people were each fined the maximum £50 under the Act for wearing black berets at Speakers' Corner during a Sinn Féin anti-internment rally.
Section 5 - Conduct conducive to breach of the peace
This section created the offence of conduct conducive to breach of the peace. This section was repealed by section 40(3) of, and Schedule 3 to, the Public Order Act 1986. The offence under this section was abolished by section 9(2)(d) of that Act.
- The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 10(1) of this Act.
- The Public Order Act 1936, section 10(2)
- The Public Order Act 1936, section 10(3)
- Allen of Abbeydale, "Newsam, Sir Frank Aubrey (1893–1964)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn., January 2008, accessed 12 June 2009.
- "First Political Uniform Prosecution". The Yorkshire Post. British Newspaper Archive. 28 January 1937. Retrieved 15 July 2012. (subscription required (. ))
- G. C. Webber, "Patterns of Membership and Support for the British Union of Fascists", in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Oct., 1984): 597.
- "12 who wore...", The Times, 21 November 1974, p 3
- Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice, 1999, para. 29-27 at p.2327