Research and analysis

Simplification of the Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency

This report concludes the Law Commission's Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency project.

Documents

Simplification of the Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency

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Details

Public nuisance is a common law offence involving environmental danger or loss of amenity or offensive public behaviour. The related common law offence of outraging public decency involves actions or displays in public places that outrage generally accepted standards of decency, in the presence of at least two people.

In this project the Law Commission considered the fault elements of both offences, and the relationship of public nuisance to statutory environmental and public order offences. At present public nuisance requires negligence on the part of the defendant, while outraging public decency does not require any mental fault at all.

In the consultation paper we provisionally proposed incorporating requirements of fault into both offences. The Law Commission received 13 responses, a majority of which agreed with the proposals on each offence.

In this final report it is recommended that both offences should be replaced in statute. The new offences would be similar to the old, except that:

  • in public nuisance, it should be a requirement of the offence that the defendant intended to cause, or was reckless about causing, a nuisance to the public;
  • in outraging public decency, it should be a requirement of the offence that the defendant knew that he or she was or might be in a public place and that the act or display was of such a nature as to cause outrage to ordinary people. There should be no requirement that two people were actually present.

Further information on the work of the Law Commission is available on the Law Commission website

Published 25 June 2015