Public Order Offences

There are six main types of public order offences. These are:



A riot occurs when at least 12 people use or threaten violence.  The behaviour of those involved must make the average person feel afraid that they will be assaulted or injured because of the violence used.

This offence has to be dealt with at the Crown Court and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 


Violent Disorder

Violent Disorder involves the same prohibited behaviour as a riot except that the minimum number of people involved is three rather than 12.

Violent Disorder cases can be heard in either the Magistrates or Crown Court, although they are generally heard at the Crown Court.  The maximum sentence is 5 years in custody.   



An Affray occurs if a person uses, or threatens to use, unlawful violence which causes others to fear for their personal safety. The offence must include more than a verbal threat.

This offence can be dealt with in either the Magistrates or Crown Court and carries a maximum sentence of 3 years custody.

Threatening Behaviour

This offence is caused by using threatening or abusive words or behaviour towards another person so that person fears immediate unlawful violence may be used against them.

The maximum sentence for this offence is 6 months in prison. These cases can only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

Causing Intentional Harassment, Alarm or Distress

A person is guilty of this offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress they use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour. Importantly the person who witnesses the behaviour must be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

The maximum sentence for this offence is 6 months custody.

Threatening, Abusive or Disorderly Behaviour

This offence occurs when a person uses abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause another harassment alarm or distress.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine.


Head Office

The Johnson Partnership

Cannon Courtyard, Long Row,

Nottingham, NG1 6JE

Tel 0115 941 9141



  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. 

The Johnson Partnership

SRA No. : 73370

​​​​© 2021 by The Johnson Partnership.