Public Behaviour Arrests

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If you’re drunk and causing problems, you can be arrested for being Drunk and Disorderly under section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967.

If you use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, in public and within the sight or hearing of a person likely to suffer harassment, alarm or distress as a result, you can be arrested for causing Harassment, Alarm or Distress under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.

Both offences carry maximum fines of £1,000. They can alternatively be dealt with by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice (“FPN”), which is a spot fine of £80. FPNs are designed to deal with low-level offences, to save the administrative and financial burden of bringing a full-blown prosecution. Accepting an FPN doesn’t mean that you’re admitting to the offence, but it does prevent the police from charging you.  If you don’t pay the FPN within 21 days:

  • a fine of one and a half times the value of the FPN can be registered against you - that fine is then enforceable through the courts;
  • the police can choose to prosecute you for the offence which caused you to be issued with an FPN in the first place.

Urination (or worse)

Urinating in the street is pretty likely to cause someone else distress! As such, it’s an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and may get you a £80 FPN or a £1,000 fine if prosecuted.

Having sex, or getting your bits out, in public can also come under this offence. Much better to put it (or them) away.

Fighting (however much you think it’s justified at the time) can land you in a lot of trouble. At the more minor end of the scale, you may face charges of assault, battery and/or affray. Even these relatively minor charges carry a maximum prison term of 3 years (for affray). And none of them look good on a CV.

Theft and Criminal Damage

As well as making you a huge cliché, stealing traffic cones and road signs is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Theft and Criminal Damage (which can include graffiti) can carry a fine of up to £5,000 or a prison term of 6 months. Depending of the value of the items stolen/damaged, these offences may be dealt with by an FPN but remember that this is discretionary.

Stop and Search

Police officers – generally only if they have reasonable grounds for suspicion -  may stop, detain and search you or your vehicle, or anything in or on your vehicle for certain items. There are a number of items which the police have the power to search for, but the most common ones are stolen or prohibited items (under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) and controlled drugs (under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971).

What constitutes “reasonable suspicion” depends on the facts of each case. It does have to be objective and relate to you personally. Although a hunch or instinct isn’t enough to justify a search, reasonable suspicion doesn’t necessarily have to be based on something ‘concrete’. Behaviour, such as acting like you are trying to hide something, may give rise to reasonable suspicion. However, assumptions and generalisations (for example, that young people/students/people who dress a certain way are more likely to steal things!) are not grounds for reasonable suspicion.

More details on procedure can be found here

If you are arrested...

You can be arrested if:

  • the police have a valid arrest warrant; or
  • you are committing (or are about to commit) certain offences; or
  • the police have reasonable grounds for believing that you have committed, are committing or are about to commit, certain offences.

More information can be found here

If you feel you have been mistreated by the Police, you can make a complaint against them. Please refer to this information