The law divides Criminal offences in Queensland into different classes depending on the level of seriousness of the offence.
The Summary Offences Act (“the Act”) provides a framework for a range of lesser, non-indictable offences implemented to keep the good order and deal with anti-social behaviour, primarily in public spaces.
The offence of public nuisance under the Act falls within the category of offences that may affect the quality of community use of public space, or, “offensive behaviour in public”.
The Act defines “public nuisance” as behaviour that is:
“Offensive” behaviour includes offensive, obscene, indecent or abusive language.
What one person considers offensive may not be offensive to another. Therefore, the law must look at the conduct objectively and take into consideration the other circumstances of the matter (i.e. what the conduct was, whether the person alleged to have committed public nuisance directed it to anyone and any other background circumstances).
“Threatening” behaviour can include merely threatening words; there do not have to be any actions.
Police Powers When Prosecuting Public Nuisance
It is important to note that a police officer, without the complaint from another member of the public, can charge an offender with public nuisance and commence prosecution against that person .
A person that commits a public nuisance offence is liable to a maximum penalty of:
The maximum penalty increases if the offence occurred within a licenced premise, or within the vicinity of a licenced premise. In these circumstances, the maximum penalty is:
With this in mind, maximum penalties are included as a yardstick for “worst-case” penalties and there are several factors that influence the penalty an offender is likely to receive, including:
Sentencing trends between 2015 and 2020 in the Magistrates’ Courts indicate that the most common penalty imposed for an offence of public nuisance is a fine.
Around 32% of offenders received a fine with no conviction recorded while around 39% of offenders received a fine however, the Court recorded a conviction on their criminal history.
Other penalties the Court has imposed include:
For this reason, it is imperative to be properly prepared if you are due to appear in Court for this charge.
You will not necessarily have to attend Court for a charge of public nuisance.
Since 2010, police officers have had the option to issue an infringement notice for the charge of public nuisance to reduce the number of offenders appearing before Queensland Courts for charges of this nature.
This option is entirely at the discretion of the officer, who may still find that prosecution and Court proceedings are necessary.
If the arresting offer decides to prosecute the charge before the Court you will be given a date to appear, likely via a Notice to Appear with a date and Court location.
If a charge of public nuisance is set down before the Court, the Court that will finalise the matter will ordinarily be the Magistrates’ Court.
It is a simple process for the police to bring a charge of public nuisance. Even though many people will choose to plead guilty to the charge, you always have a right to contest a charge and proceed to trial on the basis that you are not guilty of the offence.
You may have prospects of success of a Court acquitting you of the charge if you can prove that:
Proper experience appearing before the Court is essential. Aitken Whyte Lawyers are focused on results. Our Criminal Defence team will advise you on the proper course to take to speak with the police, prepare for Court, and achieve the best possible outcome.
Aitken Whyte Lawyers can assist you with all criminal matters.
If you want to know more about criminal law and offences, or speak to a solicitor about your situation and get advice and representation, call us on 07 5408 0655 .
Aitken Whyte Lawyers
11/8 Pikki Street,
Maroochydore Qld 4558
Ph: +617 5408 0655
Fax: +617 3211 9311