The court considered the meaning of the legal concept of a breach of the peace.
Held: The essence is to be found in violence or threatened violence. ‘We entertain no doubt that a constable has a power of arrest where there is reasonable apprehension of imminent danger of a breach of the peace; so for that matter has the ordinary citizen. We hold there is a power of arrest for breach of the peace where (1) a breach of the peace is committed in the presence of the person making the arrest, or (2) the arrestor reasonably believes that such a breach of the peace will be committed in the immediate future by the person arrested although he has not yet committed any breach, or (3) where a breach has been committed and it is reasonably believed that a renewal of it is threatened’. And
‘We are emboldened to say that there is a breach of the peace whenever harm is actually done or likely to be done to a person or in his presence to his property or a person is in fear of being so harmed through an assault, an affray, a riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance. It is for this breach of the peace when done in his presence that a constable, or anyone else, may arrest an offender without warrant’. Justices, for three or more centuries have managed to cope with the offence of breach of the peace, not only as to when conduct has caused such a breach but also as to whether it was likely to do so: ‘ . . . since keeping the peace in this country in the latter half of the 20th century presents formidable problems which bear upon the evolving process of the development of this breach of the common law. Nevertheless, even in these days when affrays, riotous behaviour and other disturbances happen all too frequently. We cannot accept that there can be a breach of the peace unless there has been an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence his property, or is likely to cause such harm, or which puts someone in fear of such harm being done. There is nothing more likely to arouse resentment and anger in him, and a desire to take instant revenge, than attacks or threatened attacks on a person’s body or property.’ and ‘We hold that there is a power of arrest for breach of the peace where (1) a breach of the peace is committed in the presence of the person making the arrest … (2) the arrestor reasonably believes that such a breach will be committed in the immediate future by the person arrested although he has not yet committed any breach . . .’
Lord Justice Watkins
 1 QB 416,  QB 416,  73 Crim App R 31
England and Wales
Cited – Chief Constable of Cleveland Police v Mark Anthony McGrogan CA 12-Feb-2002
The Chief Constable appealed a finding of false imprisonment of the claimant. He had once been properly arrested, but before he was freed, it was decided that he should be held for court and an information laid alleging breach of the peace. They . .
Cited – Jarrett v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 14-Feb-2003
The claimant sought damages for false imprisonment and assault after her wrongful arrest. She had waived her handbag at an officer investigating a disturbance and been arrested. The police said the arrest was lawful, she being suspected of common . .
Cited – The Chief Constable of Lancashire v Potter Admn 13-Oct-2003
The claimant appealed refusal of an Anti-Social Behaviour order by the magistrates. The respondent was a street prostitute in Preston. The magistrates had declined to aggregate her behaviour with that of others to find that it caused harrassment . .
Cited – Laporte, Regina (on the Application of) v Gloucestershire Constabulary and others Admn 19-Feb-2004
The court considered a claim for judicial review of a police officer’s decision to turn back a number of coaches. Each coach contained passengers en route to join a demonstration at an RAF base in Gloucestershire, the officer honestly and reasonably . .
Cited – Moss v McLachlan QBD 1985
Four striking miners were travelling in a convoy of motor vehicles and were stopped by a police cordon at a junction within several miles of four collieries. The inspector in charge believed with reason that a breach of the peace would be committed . .
Cited – Laporte, Regina (on the Application of) v Gloucestershire Constabulary and others CA 8-Dec-2004
The claimant had been in a bus taking her and others to an intended demonstration. The police feared breaches of the peace, and stopped the bus, and ordered the driver to return to London, and escorted it to ensure it did not stop.
Held: The . .
Cited – Regina v Nicol and Selvanayagam QBD 10-Nov-1995
The appellants appealed a bind-over for a finding that each appellant had been guilty of conduct whereby a breach of the peace was likely to be occasioned. The appellants, concerned about cruelty to animals, had obstructed an angling competition by . .
Cited – Redmond-Bate v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 23-Jul-1999
The police had arrested three peaceful but vociferous preachers when some members of a crowd gathered round them threatened hostility.
Held: Freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom to be irritating, contentious, . .
Cited – Wragg, Regina (on the Application Of) v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 15-Jun-2005
The court faced a case stated where the defendant had been accused of resisting arrest. The officers claimed to have anticipated a breach of the peace, having been called to a domestic dispute.
Held: Though the defendant had not behaved with . .
Cited – Hawkes v Director of Public Prosecutions CACD 2-Nov-2005
The defendant appealed her convictions for assaulting a police officer and obstructing him in the course of his duty. She had acted in an abusive manner, but there had been no violence.
Held: Whilst she might have been arrested on the basis . .
Cited – Hawkes, Regina (on the Application Of) v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 2-Nov-2005
The defendant appealed by way of case stated against her conviction for assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty. Her son was arrested in the early hours of the morning from her house. She followed him outside and sat in the police . .
Cited – Bibby v Chief Constable of Essex Police CA 6-Apr-2000
A bailiff sought to execute against goods in a shop against the will of the occupier. The police attended and when tempers were raised the police officer anticipated a breach of the peace by the bailiff and arrested him. He sought damages for that . .
Cited – Steel and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 23-Sep-1998
The several applicants had been arrested in different circumstances and each charged with breach of the peace contrary to common law. Under the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, the court can bind over a Defendant to keep the peace, if the Defendant . .
Cited – Laporte, Regina (on the application of ) v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire HL 13-Dec-2006
The claimants had been in coaches being driven to take part in a demonstration at an air base. The defendant police officers stopped the coaches en route, and, without allowing any number of the claimants to get off, returned the coaches to London. . .
Not preferred – Moss v McLachlan QBD 1985
There had been violent conflict between members of different unons in the context of the miners’ strike. The police had found it difficult to maintain the peace. The appellants were four of about sixty striking miners intent on a mass demonstration . .
Followed – Percy v Director of Public Prosecutions QBD 13-Dec-1994
A woman protester repeatedly climbed over the perimeter fencing into a military base.
Held: The defendant had a choice between agreeing to be bound over and going to prison. Her refusal to agree to be bound over had an immediate and obvious . .
Cited – Hashman and Harrup v The United Kingdom ECHR 25-Nov-1999
The defendants had been required to enter into a recognisance to be of good behaviour after disrupting a hunt by blowing of a hunting horn. They were found to have unlawfully caused danger to the dogs. Though there had been no breach of the peace, . .
Cited – Wright v Commissioner of Police for The Metropolis QBD 11-Sep-2013
The claimant sought damages for false imprisonment and infringement of his human rights in the manner of the defendant’s management of a demonstration in which he was involved. The issue was whether ilce action was justified on the basis that the . .
Cited – Humberside Police v McQuade CA 12-Jul-2001
Defendant’s appeal against an order giving judgment for the claimant in the action for damages to be assessed for wrongful arrest and personal injury. The claimant had been arrested in his home, purportedly for a breach of the peace. There was no . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Crime, Magistrates, Police
Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.182926