35 years later: re-examining the offence of riot in the Public Order Act 1986

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Brian Cheung


public order law, criminal law, riots, disorder, law reform, policing, Law Commission


2021 marked the 35th year of the passage of the most important public order legislation in England, the Public Order Act 1986, and saw an ambitious attempt by the Government to ‘overhaul’ public order law, in the form of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. 2021 also marked 10 years since the devastating 2011 riots in England. In this context, this article analyses the necessity of and justifications for the riot offence. It argues that the riot offence is neither necessary from an instrumental perspective nor targeted at the mischiefs of public fear and overthrow of the state. Instead, the crux of the offence is the group element, shedding light more generally on public order law’s ideological function of imposing a specific form of ‘order’ and its susceptibility to abuse. The riot offence should therefore be abolished.

Abstract 258 | NILQ 73.4.5 Cheung Downloads 37