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Public Order Act 1986


Public Order Act 1986

The Public Order Act 1986[1]
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
Other legislation
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
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted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[2] of the Law Commission.

On 23 May 2014, South Yorkshire Chief Constable David Crompton threatened to ban protests because each one costs up to half a million pounds to police, and said: “As it stands, we have a lot of power over marches but we don't have in any way the same control over assemblies.”[3]


  • Part 1 - New offences 1
    • Section 8 - Interpretation 1.1
    • Section 9 - Offences abolished 1.2
  • Part 2 - Processions and assemblies 2
  • Parts 3 and 3A- Racial and religious hatred 3
  • 4 The Act and Article 11 of ECHR
  • Misuse of section 14 5
  • The campaign to reform section 5 6
  • See also 7
  • External links 8
  • References 9

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(1) abolished the common law offences of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray.

Section 9(2) abolished the offences under:

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 and religious hatred

If the act is intended to stir up racial hatred 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),
  • broadcasting (section 22). or
  • possession of racially inflammatory material (section 23)

Acts intended to stir up religious hatred are proscribed in POA Part 3A by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (RRHA) with the insertion of new sections 29A to 29N.[4] The RRHA bill, which was introduced by Home Secretary David Blunkett, was amended several times in the House of Lords and ultimately the Blair government was forced to accept the substitute words.

To stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation was to be proscribed by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 in POA Part 3A section 29AB.[5] This legislation was introduced by David Hanson MP.

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.[6][7][8]

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.

See also

External links


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 43 of this Act.
  2. ^ The Law Commission. Criminal Law: Offences relating to Public Order (Law Com 123). HMSO. 1983.
  3. ^ "Far-right groups should be banned from staging protests, police chief suggests" 23 May 2014
  4. ^ Schedule to RRHA 2006
  5. ^ Schedule 16 to the CJIA 2008
  6. ^ Vallée, Marc (2009-04-17). "Journalists on the G20 front line". Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  7. ^ UK terror laws being misused to obstruct journalists, MPs told
  8. ^
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