Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Long title An Act to make further provision in relation to criminal justice (including employment in the prison service); to amend or extend the criminal law and powers for preventing crime and enforcing that law; to amend the Video Recordings Act 1984; and for purposes connected with those purposes.
Statute book chapter 1994 c.33
Introduced by Michael Howard
Territorial extent England & Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Royal Assent 3 November 1994
Commencement Multiple dates
Other legislation
Amendments Crime and Disorder Act 1998
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Official text of the statute as amended and in force today within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c.33) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It introduced a number of changes to the existing law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights and in greater penalties for certain "anti-social" behaviours. The Bill was introduced by Michael Howard, home secretary of Prime Minister John Major's Conservative government, and attracted widespread opposition.



Changes which received great public attention included:

  • Sections 34-39, which substantially changed the right to silence of an accused person, allowing for inferences to be drawn from their silence.
  • Sections 54-59, which gave the police greater rights to take and retain intimate body samples.
  • Section 60, which increased police powers of unsupervised "stop and search".
  • Section 80, which repealed the duty imposed on councils by the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to provide sites for gypsy and traveller use. Grant aid for the provision of sites was also withdrawn.

The whole of Part V which covered collective trespass and nuisance on land and included sections against raves (63-67, including the "repetitive beats" definition[1]) and further sections against disruptive trespass, squatters, and unauthorised campers – most significantly the criminalisation of previously civil offences. This affected many forms of protest including hunt sabotage and anti-road protests.

Part VII handled "Obscenity and Pornography", banning simulated child pornography, harshening provisions dealing with the censorship and age restriction of videos, and also increasing the penalty on obscene phone calls.

Part XI dealt with sexual offences. The definition of rape was extended to include anal rape.

Further, the age at which homosexual acts were lawful was reduced from twenty-one years to eighteen. During the passage of the Bill, MPs considered an amendment to reduce this age to sixteen (thereby equating it with the age of consent for heterosexual sex) but the motion was rejected by twenty-seven votes.[1][2] Analysis of the division list revealed that forty-two Conservative MPs had supported equalisation, and the motion would have carried but for the opposing votes of thirty-eight Labour MPs. The dissenting Labour Members were: Donald Anderson, Joe Ashton, Joe Benton, Stuart Bell, Gerry Bermingham, David Blunkett, Jim Callaghan, Dale Campbell-Savours, Jamie Cann, Eric Clarke, Bob Cryer, Lawrence Cunliffe, Denzil Davies, Don Dixon, Jimmy Dunnachie, Ken Eastham, John Evans, Derek Foster, Llin Golding, Win Griffiths, Roy Hughes, Barry Jones, Calum MacDonald, David Marshall, Michael Martin, George Mudie, Bill O'Brien, Stanley Orme, Robert Parry, Terry Patchett, Ray Powell, Martin Redmond, Ted Rowlands, Nigel Spearing, Ann Taylor, Jack Thompson, Bob Wareing and Tony Wright.


When the legislation was still under debate, the Advance Party coordinated a campaign of resistance against what was then the Criminal Justice Bill. The group was composed of an alliance of sound systems and civil liberties groups.[3] Two demonstrations were organised in London on 24 July and 9 October 1994. The latter took the form of a march which ended up as a party at Hyde Park.[4]


Commentators have seen the Act as a draconian piece of legislation which was "explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture", the main targets being squatting, direct action, football fan culture, hunt sabotage and the free party.[5] The sections which specifically refer to parties or raves are seen as badly defined [6] and drafted in an atmosphere of "clear moral panic" following the Castlemorton Common Festival.[7]

In response to the proposed bill, UK electronica band Autechre released the three-track Anti EP on Warp Records, stating:

Warning. 'Lost' and 'Djarum' contain repetitive beats. We advise you not to play these tracks if the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law. 'Flutter' has been programmed in such a way that no bars contain identical beats and can therefore be played under the proposed new law. However, we advise DJs to have a lawyer and a musicologist present at all times to confirm the non repetitive nature of the music in the event of police harassment.

The fifth mix on the Internal version of Orbital's Are We Here? EP was titled "Criminal Justice Bill?". It consisted of approximately four minutes of silence.

Their Law, a song by The Prodigy and Pop Will Eat Itself, was written as a direct response to the bill. A quotation in the booklet of the Prodigy's album Music for the Jilted Generation read "How can the government stop young people having a good time? Fight this bollocks."

In 1994 the band Dreadzone released a single called Fight the Power in opposition to the proposed Criminal Justice Bill.[8] The Dreadzone mix of this song has samples from Noam Chomsky that talk about taking action and "taking control of your lives", advocating political resistance to the proposed bill. The cover artwork for the single has a picture of a young woman with a baby stroller, which has a political poster affixed to it with the words "Kill the Bill".

The B-side to Zion Train's 1995 Dance of Life single included a track entitled Resist the Criminal Justice Act.

UK garage act The Streets also criticise the legislation in the track Weak Become Heroes from their debut album Original Pirate Material, as indicated by the lyric : “and to the government I stick my middle finger up with regards to the Criminal Justice Bill".

In 2009, Section 63 of the Act was used by police to shut down a birthday barbecue held on legal property for 15 people.[9][10]

See also


^ The Act specifically defines "music" to include "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats." It will be immediately obvious that this could include the playing of military marches, against which no action has been reported to have been taken.

  1. ^ House of Commons Hansard, 21 February 1994
  2. ^ The Independent, 23 February 1994
  3. ^ Brewster B. & Broughton F. (1999) Last Night a Dj Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, Page 373, Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3688-5
  4. ^ Firsthand account, retrieved November 1, 2006
  5. ^ Gilbert J. (1999)Discographies: Dance Music, Culture, and the Politics of Sound, Page 150, Routledge ISBN 0-415-17032-X
  6. ^ ed. South N. (1999) Drugs: Cultures, Controls and Everyday Life, Page 30, SAGE Publications ISBN 0-7619-5235-7
  7. ^ Meaden, B. (2006) TRANCENational ALIENation Page 19, Lulu, ISBN 1-4116-8543-1
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

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