Offensive behaviour in Queensland is governed by the Summary Offences Act 2005, and falls under Division 1 of the Act relating to offences about quality of community use of public places. These offences originated in 2003 under the Vagrants, Gaming and Other offences Act 1931 (repealed) to make it an offence to behave in a disorderly manner where the behaviour was likely to interfere with the public’s passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place.
With the introduction of the Summary Offences Act 2005, offences relating to offensive behaviour were redefined. They now include:
- public nuisance
- urinating in a public place
- wilful exposure
- begging in a public place, and
- being drunk in a public place.
There was previously a need for the behaviour to be directed at another person. The change in wording of the Act now implies that an offence may take place even when there is no intention to create a nuisance.
No matter which offence you are suspected of committing, you will be arrested, charged, and provided with a summons to attend at the Magistrates Court. A conviction for these offences will result in a criminal record, which could affect other parts of your life such as work and overseas travel.
The public nuisance laws are designed to target people who behave in a disorderly way, an offensive way, a threatening way, or a violent way. This includes the use of offensive, obscene, or abusive language, or a person who uses language in a threatening manner. A controversial aspect of the public nuisance laws is that it is not necessary for a person to make a complaint about the behaviour of another person before a police officer can lay charges. The controversy lies in whether the behaviour is offensive if no complaints from the public about the behaviour have been made. The penalties for public nuisance normally result in a fine; however, a person can receive up to 6 months imprisonment depending on the nature of the offence.
Urinating in a Public Place, and Wilful Exposure
It is an offence for someone to urinate in a public place, and this act may also result in a wilful exposure charge depending on the circumstances of the offence. A wilful exposure charge results when a person in a public place exposes their genitals unless they have a reasonable excuse to do so. This offence may also arise even if you are not in a public place, but near a public place, and the exposure can be seen from the public place. The penalties for these offences are normally just a fine. However, if the wilful exposure has an element of aggravation such as the exposure was designed to offend or embarrass another person, then a conviction could result in a year’s imprisonment.
Begging in a public place
It is an offence:
- to beg in a public place for money or goods, or
- to procure, cause, or encourage a child to beg for money, or goods, or
- to solicit donations of money or goods.
There are exemptions if the person is authorised by a registered charity to solicit donations for the charity, or is authorised by a local government to busk in a public place. A conviction for begging in a public place can result in a 6 month term of imprisonment. Therefore, if you are wanting to busk in a public place it is important to contact the local council and obtain the required permits.
Being Drunk in a Public Place
If you are drunk in a public place you may be arrested, and charged. This includes if you are walking from one drinking establishment to another, or waiting for a cab ride home. You may also be charged with public nuisance depending on the situation, and the events that occurred leading up to the arrest.
It is also not uncommon for resisting arrest charges to accompany public nuisance, or being drunk in a public place charges due to the intoxication of the person, and the belief they weren’t doing anything wrong, or causing any trouble. Resisting arrest charges can also lead to charges relating to assaulting a police officer, both of which carry heavy penalties and the possibility of imprisonment, whereas a charge for being drunk in a public place on its own will only result in a fine.