Update 5th August - May-Bowles appealed and sentence cut to 4 weeks imprisonment - BBC
Update 2nd August: For the assault, Jonathan May-Bowles was sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment + Costs £250. He would serve 3 weeks in actual custody. He says that he will appeal. BBC News 2nd August. See also Lawpages
Update 29th July
- Jonathan May-Bowles, pleaded guilty to assault
as well as a public order offence. District Judge Daphne Wickham adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report. The possibility of imprisonment (for the assault) was not ruled out. Guardian 29th July
On Tuesday 19th July, an incident occurred as Rupert Murdoch was giving evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee - see The Independent 20th July
. A man has been charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986
. That case comes before Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29th July. Let us look further at the 1986 Act.
The post immediately below looked at the more serious offences under the Public Order Act 1986 - riot, violent disorder and affray. This post considers three further offences - section 4 (Fear or provocation of violence), s4A (Intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress) and s.5 (Harassment, Alarm or Distress). The s.4A offence was inserted into the 1986 Act by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 s.154
Public Order Act 1986 s.4 - Fear or Provocation of Violence - link
A person is guilty of an offence if he—(a) uses towards another person threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or (b) distributes or displays to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, (c) with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another, (d) or whereby that person is likely to believe that such violence will be used or it is likely that such violence will be provoked.
Generally, this offence can be committed in a public or private place - but see section 1(2) regarding conduct in "dwellings." This offence is triable summarily only and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment or a fine up to £5000. A considerable amount of case law exists on the interpretation of elements in this offence.
There is an aggravated version of this offence - Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (as amended, from 14th December 2001, by the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001). The aggravation must take the form of racial or religious aggravation. The aggravated offence is triable either-way and, when tried in the Crown Court, carries a maximum of 2 years imprisonment.
Public Order Act 1986 s.4A - Intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress - link
A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he -
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling.
Section 4A(3) enacts a specific defence.
It is a