Public Order Offences

Public Order Offences We Can Defend You Against

  • Breach of the Peace
  • Section 38
  • Stalking
  • Resisting Arrest

Breach of the Peace

A breach of the peace is constituted by conduct which is severe enough to cause alarm or serious disturbance to people in the public sphere. Importantly, this alarm or disturbance must be caused for you to be convicted of a breach of the peace: if no one is actually affected by the conduct, then there will have been no breach of the peace. This is the primary way in which a breach of the peace differs from a section 38 contravention, which only requires that a reasonable person would be alarmed by the conduct. Another element of the offence of breach of the peace is that it cannot be committed against a police officer. This is because they are deemed to be separate from 'the peace', and instead enforcers of it.

If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that someone is committing a breach of the peace, they may arrest them without a warrant. If you are convicted of a breach of the peace, you can be sentenced to 60 days in prison and a fine of £2500. Although it is possible to be convicted of breach of the peace on indictment, this is quite rare and is usually only the case when the accused is on licence for a previous conviction.

If you have been charged with breach of the peace, call our criminal defence solicitors now and we will examine your case. It is often the case that if we are contacted early, we are able to get some, if not all, of the charges dropped in breach of the peace cases.

Section 38 (Statutory Breach of the Peace)

Different from breach of the peace, the offence known as a 'statutory breach of the peace' is when someone acts in a threatening or abusive manner and this behaviour would be likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm.

Although it is known as a statutory breach of the peace, this isn't actually accurate. This is because many core elements of the offence are quite different. A breach of the peace must have a public element, and must actually cause fear or alarm. A section 38 contravention does not need to be public, and does not need to cause alarm or distress. The primary reason why Parliament sought to make this distinction was because they did not want people to get away with behaviour which they deemed punishable simply because the person to whom they were being threatening or abusive did not suffer from the behaviour. As a result of this, many people are surprised by the fact that they are being charged when, from their perspective, no one was hurt by their actions.

If you are convicted of a section 38 offence on indictment, the maximum sentence which may be imposed is 5 years imprisonment and a fine. If you are convicted on summary complaint the maximum sentence is 12 months and a fine.

Many people are surprised by these charges because the offence casts a very wide net and encompasses many different kind of behaviour. Whether it is as simple as an argument between you and your partner or is something more serious such as brandishing a weapon, a section 38 charge may be imposed. If you have been charged with a section 38, or think you will be in the future, it is important to contact our criminal defence solicitors as soon as possible to prepare your case.


The offence of stalking was introduced in 2010 along with section 38 offences. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct which is intended to cause fear or alarm to someone. In the case of stalking, this fear or alarm must be caused: it isn't enough to say that a reasonable person would have suffered fear or alarm. The conduct which might be considered as constituting the offence of stalking includes:

  • Following someone
  • Contacting, or attempting to contact someone by any means
  • Publishing a statement of other material relating to someone
  • Monitoring someone's use of the internet and electronic communications
  • Entering any premises for the purpose of stalking
  • Loitering somewhere
  • Interfering with any property belonging to or in the possession of someone
  • Giving something to someone or leaving it somewhere where it will be found by them
  • Watching or spying on someone
  • Acting any way which a reasonable person would think likely to cause fear or alarm

Given these definitions, the offence of stalking is clearly very widely defined. It is quite possible that everyday conduct which is not unreasonable could form the basis of a stalking charge, so it is important to ensure that if you are suspected of stalking, you contact a criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible.

If you are convicted of stalking on indictment, the maximum sentence of 5 years can be imposed, including a fine. If you are convicted of stalking on summary complaint, you can be sentenced to a year in prison and a fine. Therefore, if you think that someone might suspect you of stalking, even if you haven't been doing so, it is crucial that you contact our criminal defence solicitors right away

Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest is a very common offence to be charged with in Scotland. This is in part because of what could constitute it. Even if someone merely shakes and twists their body whilst being put in handcuffs, they can be charged with resisting arrest. It is also very common for police officers to misremember these moments and exaggerate the shaking such that it sounds worse in court. For this reason, it is incredibly important to ensure that you have proper legal advice and representation. Our criminal defence solicitors deal with this type of case daily, and have a good record of gaining successful results for clients charged with resisting arrest.