Public Order Offences

Closed 8 Aug 2018

Opened 9 May 2018


What is the Sentencing Council?

The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for the courts to use when passing a sentence. Part of the Council’s remit[1] is to conduct public consultations on guidelines for the sentencing of offenders.


Why Public Order offences?

Public order offences are high volume offences both in the magistrates’ courts and Crown Court. In 2016 there were 22,500 adult offenders sentenced for these offences, approximately 83 per cent were dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, and 17 per cent in the Crown Court.

There is some existing guidance for offenders being sentenced in the magistrates’ court, but no guidance for offenders being sentenced in the Crown Court.

In the magistrates’ court the existing guidance is contained within the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines (MCSG). This guidance is limited to a brief reference to violent disorder offences which may be sentenced in the magistrates’ courts. The MCSG also contains guidance on sentencing the offence of Affray and the summary offences provided for by section 4, section 4A and section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.

The new guideline will provide sentencers across the Crown Court and magistrates’ court with guidance for all of the offences listed below, which will assist in achieving the Council’s objective of consistent sentencing, and provide transparency for the public regarding the penalties for these offences.

Which offences are covered by the guideline?

The new Public Order Act offences guideline will contain guidance for:

  • s1 Riot
  • s2 Violent Disorder
  • s3 Affray
  • s4 Threatening or Provocation of Violence and the racially and religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • s4A Disorderly behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress and the racially and religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • s5 Disorderly behaviour causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and the racially and religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Offences relating to stirring up racial or religious hatred and hatred based on sexual orientation which are provided for by the Public Order Act 1986


What is the Council consulting about?

The Council has produced this consultation paper in order to seek views from as many people as possible interested in the sentencing of Public Order Act offences.

However, it is important to clarify that the Council is consulting on sentencing these offences and not the legislation upon which such offences are based. The relevant legislation is a matter for Parliament and is, therefore, outside the scope of this exercise.

Through this consultation process, the Council is seeking views on:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guideline more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the approach taken to structuring the draft guidelines;
  • the types and lengths of sentence that should be passed;
  • anything else you think should be considered.


What else is happening as part of the consultation process?

This is a 13 week public consultation. During the consultation period, the Council will host a number of consultation meetings to seek views from groups with an interest in this area as well as with sentencers. Once the consultation exercise is over and the results considered, a final guideline will be published and used by all courts.

Alongside this consultation paper, the Council has produced an online questionnaire.  The Council has also produced resource assessments for the guidelines. The online questionnaire and resource assessments can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website:





  • Anyone from any background


  • Criminal justice