Categories
Criminal Law

Public Order Offences in Ireland-What You Need to Know

public order offences ireland
Public order offences-one of the most common groups of offences prosecuted in the District Court

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 provides for most of the public order offences in Ireland, many of which are prosecuted in the District Court.

The most common public order offences are as follows:

Intoxication in a Public Place

This is set out at section 4 of Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 which states

4.—(1) It shall be an offence for any person to be present in any public place while intoxicated to such an extent as would give rise to a reasonable apprehension that he might endanger himself or any other person in his vicinity.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.
(3) Where a member of the Garda Síochána suspects, with reasonable cause, that an offence under this section or under section 5 or 6 is being committed, the member concerned may seize, obtain or remove, without warrant, any bottle or container, together with its contents, which—
(a) is in the possession, in a place other than a place used as a dwelling, of a person by whom such member suspects the offence to have been committed, and
(b) such member suspects, with reasonable cause, contains an intoxicating substance:
Provided that, in the application of this subsection to section 5 or 6 , any such bottle or container, together with its contents, may only be so seized, obtained or removed where the member of the Garda Síochána suspects, with reasonable cause, that the bottle or container or its contents, is relevant to the offence under section 5 or 6 which the member suspects is being committed.
(4) In this section—
bottle or container” does not include a bottle or container for a substance which is in the possession of the person concerned for a purpose other than the intoxication of that or any other person;
intoxicated” means under the intoxicating influence of any alcoholic drink, drug, solvent or other substance or a combination of substances and cognate words shall be construed accordingly.

 

This is a strict liability offence which means that the mental element (mens rea) normally required for a conviction does not have to be proven; it is enough if it is proved that the accused person was responsible for the physical circumstances of the crime.

The maximum fine for this offence is €500.

The Criminal Justice act, 2006, section 184 now provides for a fixed charge fine instead of court prosecution.

Disorderly Conduct in Public Place

Section 5, Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 provides:

5.—(1) It shall be an offence for any person in a public place to engage in offensive conduct—
(a) between the hours of 12 o’clock midnight and 7 o’clock in the morning next following, or
(b) at any other time, after having been requested by a member of the Garda Síochána to desist.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500.
(3) In this section “offensive conduct” means any unreasonable behaviour which, having regard to all the circumstances, is likely to cause serious offence or serious annoyance to any person who is, or might reasonably be expected to be, aware of such behaviour.

It is also a strict liability offence. The maximum fine is €1,000.

However, the Criminal Justice act, 2006, section 184 now provides for a fixed charge fine instead of court prosecution for this offence.

Threatening, Abusive or Insulting Behaviour

This covers foul-mouthedness and abuse which can lead to more serious offences.

Section 6 of Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994:

6.—(1) It shall be an offence for any person in a public place to use or engage in any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or to both.

The maximum penalty is a fine of €1,000 and/or 3 months imprisonment.

Obscene Displays

Section 7 of the Act provides:

7.—(1) It shall be an offence for any person in a public place to distribute or display any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or to both.

This is not a common prosecution but has been used against anti-abortion campaigners who have used graphic images of foetuses in protests and demonstrations.

Failure to Comply with Direction of Member of Garda Síochána

This is a common prosecution and allows sections 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 to be enforced by a Garda.

Section 8, Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 states:

8.—(1) Where a member of the Garda Síochána finds a person in a public place and suspects, with reasonable cause, that such person—
(a) is or has been acting in a manner contrary to the provisions of section 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 or 9 , or
(b) without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, is acting in a manner which consists of loitering in a public place in circumstances, which may include the company of other persons, that give rise to a reasonable apprehension for the safety of persons or the safety of property or for the maintenance of the public peace,
the member may direct the person so suspected to do either or both of the following, that is to say:
(i) desist from acting in such a manner, and
(ii) leave immediately the vicinity of the place concerned in a peaceable or orderly manner.
(2) It shall be an offence for any person, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, to fail to comply with a direction given by a member of the Garda Síochána under this section.
(3) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

Conviction for  this offence in the District Court can lead to Any person convicted of this offence to a class D fine (€1,000) and/or to a maximum term of 6 months in prison.

Wilful Obstruction

Section 9 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) act, 1994 provides:

9.—Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, wilfully prevents or interrupts the free passage of any person or vehicle in any public place shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200.

The maximum fine is €500.

Entering a Building with Intention to Commit an Offence

Section 11 states:

11.—(1) It shall be an offence for a person—
(a) to enter any building or the curtilage of any building or any part of such building or curtilage as a trespasser, or
(b) to be within the vicinity of any such building or curtilage or part of such building or curtilage for the purpose of trespassing thereon,
in circumstances giving rise to the reasonable inference that such entry or presence was with intent to commit an offence or with intent to unlawfully interfere with any property situate therein.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

 

Conviction in the District Court can lead to a maximum fine of €2,500 and/or 6 months in jail.

Trespass on a Building

Section 13 of Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 provides for trespass on a building:

13.—(1) It shall be an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to trespass on any building or the curtilage thereof in such a manner as causes or is likely to cause fear in another person.
(2) (a) Where a member of the Garda Síochána finds a person in a place to which subsection (1) relates and suspects, with reasonable cause, that such person is or has been acting in a manner contrary to the provisions of that subsection, then the member may direct the person so suspected to do either or both of the following, that is to say:
(i) desist from acting in such a manner, and
(ii) leave immediately the vicinity of the place concerned in a peaceable or orderly manner.
(b) It shall be an offence for any person, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, to fail to comply with a direction given by a member of the Garda Síochána under this section.
(3) (a) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
(b) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (2) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

 

Conviction can lead to a maximum fine of €1,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment.

 

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 also provides for the offences or riot, affray, violent disorder, assault or obstruction of peace officer, and some other offences.

If you are charged with any of these offences, it would be advisable to consult a solicitor, as a criminal conviction can create significant problems in relation to travelling to other countries, working abroad, emigration, etc.