Violence: The law in more detail

Anti-social behaviour

Mobbing and rioting is a crime at common law and is committed when a number of persons assemble and combine for a common purpose to the alarm of the public and in breach of the peace.  (It is sufficient if the mob assembles for the purpose of intimidating people and no act of violence, noise or threatening behaviour is required).

Section 47 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 makes it an offence for any person to urinate or defecate in such circumstances as to cause or be likely to cause annoyance to any other person. 

You may review this as a minor offence but one which is very anti-social and very unpleasant for shopkeepers and householders who have to clean their doorways in the morning.

It should be noted that is offence can be committed anywhere that the circumstances cause annoyance to others. 


Noise pollution

Under Section 54 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, it is an offence for any person to sound or play any musical instrument; or sing or perform, or operate any radio, television, record player, tape player, or other sound producing device - IF it gives any other person reasonable cause for annoyance and the offender refuses to desist on being required to do so by a constable in uniform.  

This offence can be committed anywhere and not just in a public place, eg in a house or other private place. 

Breach of the Peace

It is an offence for someone to shout, swear or act in a disorderly manner so as to cause fear, alarm, annoyance or disturbance to others. This can cover a large variety of incidents and is widely used in Scots law. (Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 Section 38).

Offensive Weapons

Section 47 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 makes it an offence for any person to have any offensive weapon with them in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

Lawful authority means that the person is permitted by law to carry the weapon in the course of their duty, for example, a police officer carrying a baton or a soldier with a bayonet. This authority would only be permissible while in the execution of their duties.

The term reasonable excuse simply means if the person has an excuse that is considered reasonable, then they won’t be convicted. This might apply to a person who finds a weapon and takes it to a police station, or a carpet fitter, carrying a knife during the course of that employment. If the carpet fitter later attends at a club on a night out with friends and still has the knife in his possession then the fact he uses it for work purposes would not be a reasonable excuse.

The carrying of offensive weapons purely for self-defence is not regarded as a reasonable excuse.

An offensive weapon includes any article made, or adapted for the use of causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with them for such use by either themselves or by some other person.

Knives and bladed instruments

A disguised knife is described as any knife which has a concealed blade or a concealed sharp point, and is designed to be any every day object. For example, a comb, brush, writing implement, cigarette lighter or even a lipstick.

Under the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, it is an offence for any person to import, manufacture, gift, loan, sell or offer to sell any flick knife or gravity knife.

Police may arrest, without warrant, any person reasonably suspected of being in unlawful possession of an offensive weapon.

Resisting Arrest / Police Assault

On occasions individuals attempt to resist the lawful arrest by a police officer. This can also incur when someone tries to assist the arrested person to escape and will result in them also being arrested. Unfortunately in today’s society police officers can also be assaulted whilst carrying out their duties. The type of assault can vary depending upon the force used and injuries gained as they would in normal circumstances. (Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 Sect 90).


How many times have you seen a crowd of youths outside a shop, causing an obstruction and forcing people to walk on the road to get past them?

Under Section 53 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 It is an offence for any person, on foot in any public place to, along with another or others, obstruct the lawful passage of any other person - if they fail to desist on being required to do so by a constable in uniform.

This act also covers people who display goods for sale by placing them on or allowing them to overhang a footpath.

It is an offence under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 for any person to obstruct any emergency service worker in the execution of their duty. It is also an offence to impede health workers in hospital premises and to make a hoax call to any emergency service.

Culpable and reckless conduct

It is an offence for an individual to commit an act that could be considered to be dangerous or reckless. This could include where someone throws stones at a bus. The act is considered dangerous and reckless as the thrower cannot know where the stone will strike or if it will injure passengers.

Bail Offences

There are a wide range of reasons why a case at court cannot be concluded in one sitting. Should this occur, then the Justice of the Peace, Sheriff or Judge may decide that the proceedings will be adjourned to another stated time. They may also decide that certain bail conditions may be required to ensure that the accused does not re-offend during this time. These bail conditions can vary to include not entering a specified area, making contact with an individual or not being allowed to leave your home during certain times (also known as a curfew order). Should a person thereafter break one of the bail conditions, they can be arrested and held in custody to attend court the next lawful day. (Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 Sect 27).