Offensive Behaviour – Public Nuisance (Qld)

Offensive Behaviour – Public Nuisance (Qld)

Aitken Whyte Lawyers Sunshine Coast


Public Nuisance

An Offence against Quality of Community Use of Public Spaces

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”.


What Is Public Nuisance?

The Act defines “public nuisance” as behaviour that is:

  • disorderly;
  • offensive;
  • threatening; or
  • violent; and
  • interferes or is likely to interfere with the peaceful passage through or enjoyment of a public place by a member of the public.

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 .


Penalties for Public Nuisance

Worst Case

A person that commits a public nuisance offence is liable to a maximum penalty of:

  • a fine of around $1,330; or
  • imprisonment of 6 months.

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:

  • a fine of $3,325; or
  • imprisonment of 6 months.

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:

  • their age;
  • their character;
  • the circumstances surrounding the offence; and
  • whether they were charged with any other offences in conjunction with public nuisance.

Likely Penalty

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:

  • a good behaviour bond;
  • probation;
  • community service; and
  • a period of imprisonment.

For this reason, it is imperative to be properly prepared if you are due to appear in Court for this charge.


Will I Have to Go to Court If I’m Charged with Public Nuisance?

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.


Defences to the Charge

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:

  • the actions did not take place in a public place;
  • the alleged behaviour was not observed by other members of the public; or
  • the behaviour was not offensive, threatening, disorderly or violent.


Appearing In Court – Here To Help

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 .

Office Location and Contact Details

Sunshine Coast

Aitken Whyte Lawyers
11/8 Pikki Street,
Maroochydore Qld 4558
Ph: +617 5408 0655
Fax: +617 3211 9311
Email Us


Aitken Whyte Lawyers
11/8 Pikki Street,
Maroochydore Qld 4558

T: 07 5408 0655

Email Us


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Lawyers for Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Buderim, Noosa, Nambour and Caloundra, Queensland, Australia.