I know that s5 makes conduct “likely to cause” … harassment alarm or distress a crime on a strict liability basis. But what provision makes intention to cause it a crime?

  • 2
    On legislation.gov.uk, on a given law e.g. Public Order Act 1986, you can often switch between "Original (As enacted)" and "Latest available (Revised)". Also, you could web search for "intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress".
    – Lag
    Apr 27, 2023 at 10:04

2 Answers 2


Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 (which was amended by section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).

[F14A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

(1)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.

(2)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.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—

(a)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or

(b)that his conduct was reasonable.

(4)F2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(5)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both.]


“Strict liability” means that intent doesn’t matter. What matters is that your behaviour was likely to cause distress etc. whether it did cause distress or not (because that’s what the law says, “likely to cause” is enough). And “strict liability” means the fact that it happened is enough, without any intent.

  • Informative but incorrect answer to this question
    – Lag
    Apr 27, 2023 at 12:03

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