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Offensive Behaviour Offences (Qld)

Offensive behaviour offences in Queensland are contained in the Summary Offences Act 2005 and aim to ensure the community’s use of public places without interference. These offences are usually dealt with by way of an on-the-spot infringement notice or by a Magistrates Court.


There are five specific offences listed in the Act about the “quality of community use of public places”.

Public nuisance

A person commits a public nuisance offence if they behave in a disorderly, offensive, threatening or violent way, and this behaviour interferes with another person’s peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place. This behaviour can include language that is offensive, obscene, indecent, abusive or threatening. A complaint is not needed for police to take action. The maximum penalty for a public nuisance offence is 10 penalty units ($1334.50) or imprisonment for 6 months. If the offence is committed in or near licensed premises, the maximum penalty is 25 penalty units ($3336.25) or imprisonment for 6 months.

Urinating in a public place

To be charged with this offence, “evidence that liquid was seen to be discharged from the vicinity of a person’s pelvic area”, in a public place, is considered sufficient evidence. The maximum penalty is 2 penalty units ($266.90), or if the urination is in or near licensed premises, the maximum penalty is 4 penalty units ($533.80).

Begging in a public place

In a public place, a person must not beg for money or goods; cause, procure or encourage a child to do this; or solicit donations of money or goods. The maximum penalty is 10 penalty units ($1334.50) or imprisonment for 6 months. Buskers and charity donation collectors are exempt from this law.

Wilful exposure

A person must not wilfully expose their genitals, unless they have a reasonable excuse, in a public place or somewhere they can be seen from a public place. The maximum penalty is 2 penalty units ($266.90). If the person wilfully exposes themselves to offend or embarrass someone else, the maximum penalty is 40 penalty units ($5338) or imprisonment for 1 year.

Being intoxicated in a public place

If a person is drunk or otherwise adversely affected by drugs or another intoxicating substance in a public place, they face a maximum penalty of 2 penalty units ($266.90).

Associated offences

In some cases, a person can commit an associated offence when being dealt with for their offensive behaviour. For instance, if a person is drunk, their ability to act in a socially appropriate way may be impaired, and they may be charged with obstructing police during the issuing of a ticket, or not stating their correct name and address.

Police move-on powers

Under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000, a police officer can, in particular circumstances, direct a person or group of people to move on or leave a public space. The direction can be given if the officer reasonably suspects the behaviour of the person or group is or has been:

  • causing anxiety to a person entering or leaving a place;
  • interfering with trade or business at the place by unnecessarily obstructing, hindering or impeding someone entering or leaving the place;
  • disorderly, indecent, offensive or threatening to someone entering, at or leaving the place;
  • disrupting the peaceable and orderly conduct of any event, entertainment or gathering at the place.

The direction can also be given if a person’s presence is causing anxiety, interference or disruption. However, the direction cannot be given if it interferes with a person’s right of peaceful assembly, unless the direction is reasonably necessary for public safety, public order, or to protect the rights and freedoms of other people.

The direction can require a person to leave a place, leave a stated part of a place, or move a stated distance in a stated direction from a place, within a stated time of up to 24 hours.

The maximum penalty for ignoring such a direction is 40 penalty units ($5338), or 60 penalty units ($8007) if the contravention is in or near a licensed premises.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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