View Full Version : Legal penalty in UK for breach of the peace?

03-22-2013, 03:07 PM
At least, I think that's what my character has done.

So, Toby lives with his dad in a fishmongers. They find and nurse back to health a selkie. Two evil scientists attack Toby's father and kidnap the selkie. Toby goes in pursuit and catches up with them (on foot!) on the Humber Bridge, where he manages to open the back of their van and release the selkie into the Humber, in the meantime causing traffic chaos of the sort that causes minor injuries to people who have to break abruptly.

He's arrested. He can't let people know about the existence of selkies, so he claims he wanted to catch the evil scientists for what they'd done to his father.

I've tried gov.uk, but most of the information there is pretty broad (Simpler, clearer, faster. Vaguer). I miss Directgov, at least it looked like it was designed this side of the millennium.

Firstly, would this constitute breach of the peace or some kind of traffic violation? And secondly, would there be a legal penalty for it? Wikipedia says no for breach of the peace, but then, it's wikipedia. How would the fact the scientists are arrested for assault impact on it all?

I'm aware there's a good chance of motorists with whiplash suing him for compensation, but depending on how his arrest would go I might just handwave it away. Everyone in Yorkshire happens to be really, really nice? Or they wait until after the book is over before they sue.

Edit - so I've just found the cps section of gov.uk. I'm aware if it were deemed breach of the peace it would be a matter for a magistrates court. I'm not sure I understand what 'binding over' is, which would appear to be the most likely punishment. Toby can't afford to pay a fine, and being imprisoned would potentially cause his father's business to go bankrupt. It's a first offence, he's over 25.

03-22-2013, 03:25 PM
Yeah, my guess would be that he would arrested and cautioned, I can't imagine he would be prosecuted for something like that - he didn't damage any property, or hurt anyone directly.

It being set in Yorkshire helps too, I feel - I can't imagine too many yorkshiremen/women poncing around claiming for whiplash. They're made of sterner stuff.

03-22-2013, 05:18 PM
Binding over means that as long as you behave yourself in future, you won't be punished for this offence. But if you get in trouble again, this offence will be added to the next one and the punishment correspondingly more severe.

But you might want to check that as I'm not 100% sure.

ETA: I am wrong. I thought I might be.

Here's a Wiki link that makes no sense to me:


but you might understand it.

03-22-2013, 05:23 PM
This is from the CPS website (http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/binding_over_orders/#a05):

Binding over a parent or guardian
Following a youth being found guilty of any offence the court may bind over the patent or guardian to take proper care and exercise proper control.
The parent or guardian must consent.
If the youth is under 16 years of age the court must be satisfied that the bind over is required to prevent further offending.
Where a bind over is not made the court must explain in open court its reasons.
The amount of recognizance shall not exceed 1000 and the period shall not exceed 3 years or until the youth reaches 18 years (which ever is the shorter).
If the parent or guardian unreasonably refuses to be bound over they can be fined up to 1000.

But I'm not sure they would bind your MC over. He caused a serious disruption that caused possible injuries. So I think there would be some sort of punishment. Or just a caution if the police are feeling generous.

Mr Flibble
03-22-2013, 05:34 PM
Breaching the peace isn't an offence as such, so not much in the way of penalty there (Binding over is to prevent a future breach -- ie there's concern you'd do it again)

If he breaks open their van, that might be criminal damage or breaking and entering. If they admit they had a selkie in the back and he got it out, that might be robbery but I can't see a policeman keeping a straight face at that!

However, as these guys are arrested for what they did to his Dad, the police might just caution him.

For traffic offences, it might be causing danger to other road users (willful obstruction of the highway)

Have you considered ringing your local cop shop? They are pretty helpful.

Steve Collins
03-22-2013, 06:27 PM
I'm an ex-UK cop. In the circumstances you outline I would not arrest your MC for anything, he was simply trying to apprehend the men that assaulted his father.

03-23-2013, 07:33 AM
Claims for whiplash would go to the insurance company in the first instance. They then decide if they have a chance of getting their money back from someone else. It's not usually down to the motorist.

03-23-2013, 08:57 AM
What would it do to your story if traffic was already stopped on the Humber Bridge? You say that Toby caught up to them on foot? Unless he's a superhero, or fantasy being himself, this seems unlikely if the car was unobstructed.
I know nothing about the Humber Bridge, but bridges here are notorious bottlenecks. What if the van full of scientists was caught in rush-hour traffic, ground to a halt as everyone tries to feed onto the bridge? This gives Toby a chance to break into the back of the van, freeing the selkie and hustling it over the side of the bridge. If it's dark no-one will see, and even in daylight, if they're fast, no-one will notice (or believe). Most of the traffic will be at a dead stop, so little chance of injury, although a few people, not paying attention, will have bumped the cars ahead of or behind them.
He can still be accused of assaulting the scientists, and a few drivers can complain about the guy who 'caused' the accident, maybe the insurance companies will eventually call, but if you don't want to have him punished, this might do it.