Criminal Law

Public Order Offences

There are several offences or offence types that can be grouped under the heading Public Order Offences. As the term suggests, these are offences that deal with keeping the good order of the community. The offences are not typically serious in nature, however, most of them do still carry a term of imprisonment as a possible penalty.

The majority of these offences are listed under the Summary Offences Act 1988; the term "summary" referring to offences that are not, by definition, serious offences. There are other pieces of legislation that deal with offences that can generally be considered to fall under this category offences, such as offences against the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002.

The most common public order offences under the Summary Offences Act are: offensive language; offensive conduct; wilful and obscene exposure; violent disorder; failure to move on; and custody of a knife in a public place. (For more serious offences that generally occur in public, see our articles on affray and riot).

It should be noted that all the above offences are only committed if they take place in a public place or in or near a school. 

The definition of “public place” is found in section 3 of the Summary Offences Act and it is defined as a place or a part of premises that is open to the public, or is used by the public, whether or not on payment of money or other consideration, whether or not the place or part is ordinarily so open or used and whether or not the public to whom it is open consists only of a limited class of persons, but does not include a school. The definition is therefore very broad and does not always exclude what could normally be considered private premises.

A failure to move on when requested to do so by a police officer, in some circumstances, can amount to an offence as well. If the person who is asked to move on is intoxicated at the time, then they may be committing an offence under the Summary Offences Act. In other circumstances, whether the person is intoxicated or not, they may be committing a "failure to move on" offence under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act.

It is often the case that police unfairly or even improperly charge people with various public order offences. More often than not, a defence is available and our criminal lawyers are experts at defending these sorts of charges.

If you have been charged with a public order offence and require legal assistance, we invite you to contact your nearest Prime Lawyers office.

We have lawyers with expertise in Public Order Offences located at Sydney, Parramatta, Chatswood, Sutherland and Wollongong.

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