Last reviewed: 10/03/2023
Section 78 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 has abolished the common law offence of Public Nuisance and has introduced a new statutory offence of Intentionally or Recklessly Causing Public Nuisance. Under the old common law offence the prosecution had to prove the person caused the nuisance and knew or ought to have known that nuisance would result.
With the new law if a person does something OR does not do something that they are required to do by law AND this creates a risk of or actually causes serious harm to the public or a section of the public OR prevents the public or a section of the public from doing something that they would normally have the right to do, then they could be committing the offence of Intentionally or Recklessly Causing Public Nuisance.
The person must also intend for there to be some consequence of their action, or they must be reckless as to whether it will have any consequences that cause 'serious harm' to the public or prevents the public from doing something they would otherwise have the right to do.
'Serious harm' is defined as:
- "death, personal injury or disease"
- "loss of, or damage to, property"
- "serious distress, serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity"
So the prosecution must prove three things.
- That the defendant has done something or failed to do something.
- That the act or omission has caused serious harm to people or stopped people doing something they could otherwise have done and
- The defendant acted intentionally or recklessly
If charged with this offence, a defence would be to prove that the person had a reasonable excuse for carrying out the act or for not doing the act which they were required to do by law. This is important and differs from the common law offence and it is for the defence to prove on the balance of probabilities that they had a reasonable excuse.
If convicted of this offence, the maximum sentence that can be imposed upon you depends on where you were tried:
- If tried in the Magistrates Court, the maximum sentence would be imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or an unlimited fine or both (6 months under the current law for a single offence)
- If tried in the Crown Court, the maximum sentence would be imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or an unlimited fine or both
It is difficult to say what it is likely first time offenders will receive, as no sentencing guidelines have been published (or written) as of yet. As with all offences it depends on the circumstances of the offence, the degree of nuisance caused and the personal circumstances of the offender.
It is also specifically stated in the legislation that being charged and convicted of this offence does not affect the possibility of being charged and convicted of other offences arising from the behaviour although in reality the courts would be obliged to look at and consider all of the circumstances in the case. A Criminal prosecution would not prevent a civil action taking place as well.