Causing fear or provocation of violence
Causing fear or provocation of violence

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Causing fear or provocation of violence
  • The offence of causing fear or provocation of violence
  • Elements of the threatening behaviour offence
  • Meaning of 'threatening, abusive or insulting' words or behaviour
  • 'Likely to' believe requirement
  • 'Cause another person to believe' requirement
  • 'Uses towards' requirement
  • Meaning of 'writing' and 'display' for the purposes of threatening behaviour
  • 'Immediate unlawful violence' definition
  • Place of commission of offence
  • More...

The offence of causing fear or provocation of violence

The offence of causing fear or provocation of violence (threatening behaviour) is an offence created by section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA 1986). The offence can only be tried in the magistrates' court.

Words or behaviour that are merely ‘insulting’, or the displaying of writing, signs or other visible representations which are merely ‘insulting’, within the hearing of someone likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, will not constitute a criminal offence under POA 1986, s 5(1). Note, however, that POA 1986, s 4A (causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress) retains the ‘insulting’ limb, see Practice Note: Intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

For information on the offence of harassment under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997, see Practice Note: Harassment offences.

Elements of the threatening behaviour offence

Under POA 1986, s 4, the prosecution must prove:

  1. the defendant used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person

    or

  2. the defendant distributed or displayed to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or abusive or insulting (insulting will not constitute an element of the section 5 offence from 1 February 2014 but POA 1986, s 4A will retain the ‘insulting’ limb), and

    in either case

  3. the defendant intended his words or behaviour or writing to be threatening, abusive or insulting or is

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