What is public nuisance?
Public nuisance is when a person’s behaviour interferes, or is likely to interfere, with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public.
Since it is quite a broad offence, there are plenty of examples of behaviour that would be considered public nuisance, such as, but not limited to:
- using inappropriate or explicit language;
- threatening or disrupting a person or group;
- encouraging others to engage in a fight;
- being intoxicated and disturbing others;
- behaving in a manner that causes another to be intimidated or threatened;
- nude sunbathing on beach;
- possessing a knife in a public place without a reasonable excuse; and
- urinating in public.
Depending on the circumstances, in some instances, you may receive an informal warning in which a police officer may tell you to leave a public place and not return within a reasonable time (no more than 24 hours) if they suspect that your presence or behaviour is interfering with others in the venue. The police officer must tell you why you are being told to leave, to which you would need to comply. If you do not comply you may be breaking the law by contravening a direction or requirement of police.
Being charged with public nuisance
If you have been charged by a police officer with public nuisance, you are required to attend Court. Although it is only a ‘simple’ and relatively harmless offence, your matter would then be finalised in the Magistrates Court.
Like most cases, there is no ‘blanket’ penalty; it very much depends on the facts of your particular matter and your previous history as to the penalty you are likely to receive. If it is your first offence and the nuisance is of a relatively low level, you may be issued with an infringement notice. It is important that you do seek legal advice if you do have a prior criminal history, as this is likely to impact your sentencing.
If you are found guilty of public nuisance fines are likely to include community service, suspended sentences, and even up to 6 months imprisonment depending on the situation and previous offenses.
In each of these instances where you are sentenced to a penalty other than jail, the Court can choose not to record a conviction against you. Essentially this means your criminal record will remain clear and any complications with work or travel can then be avoided.
Next steps if you have been charged with public nuisance
It is always a good idea to get legal advice if you are unsure about your situation. Our criminal law team are experts in this area and can advise you on the best course of action, the likely outcome and even representation at court.