Public Order Offences

Public order offences cover a very wide range of situations and are often used by the police where more specific charges, such as assault cannot be charged. The law relating to public order offences can be complex and you should always take legal advice before answering any questions from the police and if charged, before you go to court.

 At Cartwright King our solicitors are on hand to defend you if you are facing an alleged public order offence. Our lawyers are available across the country 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

It is important to acknowledge that advice at the police station is free. Always ask to speak to a lawyer from Cartwright King if you are arrested or asked to talk to the police. 

Free initial telephone consultation

Our Criminal Defence Solicitors are here to take the worry off your hands. We can provide an initial telephone consultation to see how we can assist in your case. Please call us on 0808 168 5550 or email

What are public order offences?

There is a wide range of offences set out in the Public Order Act 1986, which make many different kinds of behaviour criminal offences. They usually refer to the use of or threat of violence or harassment towards someone else, in a public place. They usually involve more than one person and someone else to have been threatened to have felt fear. Crimes related to a public order offence include:

Riot (Section 1 Public Order Act 1986) – A riot is caused when at least 12 people are either threatening violence or are acting with ‘common purpose’ to use violence. The behaviour of those causing a riot must be such that the average person would feel afraid by their actions. If you were to commit this offence, the trial would take place in a Crown Court where you could be given a maximum sentence of 10 years. 

Violent Disorder (Section 2 Public Order Act 1986) – This is caused when 3 or more people are causing the same offence as those of a riot with the trial taking place in either a Crown Court of a Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence you can be given is 5 years. 

Affray (Section 3 Public Order Act 1986) – Affray involves 2 or more people who are causing a disturbance by using threatening behaviour and causing others to fear for their safety. This offence can lead you to receiving a 3 year prison sentence at the Crown Court.

Intentional Harassment, Alarm or Distress (Section 4A Public Order Act 1986) – This offence is caused by demonstrating abusive behaviour toward somebody by using threats and insults. The maximum sentence is 6 months and the trial would only take place in the Magistrates Court, unless the offence was said to be racially aggravated in which case you could receive a greater penalty at the Crown Court.

Threatening, Abusive or Insulting Behaviour (Section 5 Public Order Act 1986) – This offence can be caused by using abusive language or gestures with intent to cause another harassment alarm or distress. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine.  

How we can help

We understand that it is possible to be drawn into a disturbance without intending to commit any crime. The prosecution must prove intention to use unlawful violence or to cause distress and must also establish that you knew your behaviour would cause fear or alarm. You may have been an innocent bystander or only acting to defend yourself.

Our Criminal Defence Solicitors are available to argue your case and advise you throughout the entire process from police station to court and trial. We will:

  • Represent you at the police station and in court
  • Advise you throughout the entire process
  • Take the worry off your hands
  • Argue your case
  • Advise you with regard to an appeal if necessary

Our highly trained and experienced solicitors will take great care advising you what defence may be available in your case.

Why Choose Us?

At Cartwright King, our solicitors understand the stress and worry being accused of a public order offence can cause and the potential long term consequences that can affect you and your family. We are available to support you throughout the entire process, explain the likely outcomes and fight on your behalf.

How to make contact

If you are arrested or have to attend a police station always ask for a lawyer from Cartwright King. We will attend quickly to advise you and be with you while the police deal with your case. Advice at the police station is free.

If you require any legal advice or if you would like a no obligation, free initial telephone discussion, then please call us on 0808 168 5550. Alternatively you can email the Criminal Defence team on and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Our Criminal Defence Solicitors can provide advice across the country and are happy to meet at a time and location that suits you. We also have a network of offices in BirminghamBedfordBoltonDerbyLeedsLeicesterLondon TempleLondon Fleet StreetLutonManchesterMiddlesbroughMilton KeynesNewcastleNorthamptonNottinghamOxfordSheffield and Worcester.


"The best criminal defence you can get"

Chambers & Partners

"The professionalism, understanding, support and belief shown by the team throughout provided a lifeline at a time when it was most needed."


“Consistently involved in top-level work within the region. Continues to set the standard for criminal work.”

Chambers & Partners

“Excel in providing quality advice and representation.”

Legal 500

For further information please get in touch with our dedicated team.

You can always call us on 0808 168 5550 or email on


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