A comprehensive package of guidelines to be used by all courts in England and Wales when sentencing offenders convicted of public order offences, ranging from low level disorderly behaviour to widespread public disorder, has been published by the independent Sentencing Council, following consultation.

The new guidelines, which come into effect on 1 January 2020, provide sentencing guidance for existing offences under the Public Order Act 1986.

For the first time, all courts will have a clear framework to help ensure a consistent approach is taken to sentencing these offences. The guidelines will apply to offenders aged 18 years or over.  They have been development in accordance with the Council’s usual procedures which include a public consultation and an analysis of current sentencing practice.

The guidelines cover the offences below which are provided for by the Public Order Act 1986:

  • Riot
  • Violent disorder
  • Affray
  • Threatening or provocation of violence and the racially or religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Disorderly behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress and the racially or religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Disorderly behaviour causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and the racially or religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Offences relating to stirring up racial or religious hatred and hatred based on sexual orientation
Read the guideline

Sentencing Council member His Honour Mr Justice Julian Goose said:

“Public order is essential for the safe functioning of society and the law seeks to protect the public from behaviour which undermines this. These guidelines will ensure that courts have the structure they need to take a consistent approach to sentencing public order offences.”

The guidelines set a clear framework for sentencing and provide the essential factors that should be taken into consideration when determining the level of involvement an offender had in an incident and the impact of the offence on any victims. The guidelines also set out the aggravating and mitigating factors that should be considered before the sentence is passed.

Mr Justice Julian Goose, Sentencing Council member