Simplification of the Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

This project is complete. We published our final report on 25 June 2015 and await a response from Government.

Public nuisance is a common law offence involving environmental danger or loss of amenity or offensive public behaviour. The related common law offence of outraging public decency involves indecent actions or displays that may cause offence to members of the public.

In this project we are considering the fault elements of both offences, and the relationship of public nuisance to statutory environmental and public order offences. In our consultation paper we provisionally proposed that both offences should be replaced in statute. The new offences would be similar to the old, except that:

  • in public nuisance, it should be a requirement of the offence that the defendant intended to cause, or was reckless about causing, a nuisance to the public; and
  • in outraging public decency, it should be a requirement of the offence that the defendant knew that he or she was or might be in a public place and that the act or display was such as to cause outrage to ordinary people.

We received 13 responses to the consultation paper and have since consulted with a range of other stakeholders. In our final report we analyse these responses and make recommendations on whether the proposals in the consultation paper should be followed, with any necessary modifications.

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Criminal law


Professor David Ormerod QC