What types of behaviours would be considered as disorderly?

by The FindLaw Team

A number of criminal offences don’t require further elaboration in relation to the terminology, and the action involved (e.g .murder). However, there are also other criminal offences where the actual actions that constitute an offence may be less clear-cut – such as disorderly conduct (or disorderly behaviour). Offences involving disorderly conduct are regularly dealt with in the courts, but what behaviours would be considered as disorderly? Well, read on to find out.

The legal definition of disorderly conduct (or behaviour)

The offence of disorderly conduct is a somewhat nebulous legal construct, and its meaning can be rather fluid as Gleeson CJ noted in Coleman v Power (2004) 220 CLR 1 (at [12]):

“Concepts of what is disorderly, or indecent, or offensive, vary with time and place, and may be affected by the circumstances in which the relevant conduct occurs. The same is true of insulting behaviour or speech."

Looking to s 6(2) of the Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld) for example, a person will be deemed to have committed an offence if they behave in a disorderly, offensive, threatening, or a violent way that interferes, or is likely to interfere with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public. The types of behaviours that may constitute an offence can include offensive, indecent, or abusive language. Additionally, a person can also be considered to act in a threatening way if they use threatening language.

When telling a police officer to ‘get effed’ is disorderly – and not disorderly

It probably goes without saying that telling a police officer in a public place to, “get fucked” and to “fuck off”, would be conduct deemed to be disorderly under most circumstances, and was  found to be so in Heanes v Herangi (2007) 175 A Crim R 175. However, in E (a Child) v Staats (1994) 13 WAR 1, the 15 year old appellant was convicted of being disorderly after saying to a police officer, “you can get fucked. Fuck you”, while in a police station. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Western Australia held that the language used by the appellant was neither indecent nor obscene, with the question being whether the words were offensive to the current standards of decency. The Court also held that the word, ‘fuck’ was also not necessarily indecent.

So, there’s your general introduction into the laws relating to disorderly conduct or behaviour. Hopefully our explanation was somewhat orderly. 



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