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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Public Nuisance


Public nuisance is a simple offence under Queensland law and carries a maximum penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment or 25 penalty units.

The Offence of Public Nuisance

The offence created by section 6 of the Summary Offences Act 2005 which says:

  • “A person must not commit a public nuisance offence. Maximum penalty —
    • if the person commits a penalty units offence within licensed premises, or in the vicinity of licensed premises — 25 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment; or
    • otherwise — 10 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment.
  • A person commits a public nuisance offence if —
    • the person behaves in —
      • a disorderly way; or
      • an offensive way; or
      • a threatening way; or
      • a violent way; and
    • the person’s behaviour interferes, or is likely to interfere, with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public.”

What the Police Must Prove

In order to be convicted of public nuisance it must be proved that you:

  • behaved in one of the nominated ways (disorderly, offensive, threatening or violent), and
  • your behaviour interfered with, or would be likely to interfere with, the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place.

In order for a prosecution for public nuisance to succeed, it is not necessary for a third party to actually be “interfered with” or even for a person to make a complaint about your behaviour. It will be sufficient to convict you if your behaviour, on a reasonable assessment, would likely have interfered with the peaceful enjoyment of a public place.

Something like an argument, with raised voices and swearing, would likely constitute a public nuisance if it occurs in a public place, for example at a barbecue area in a local park or at the beach.

What is the Likely Penalty for Public Nuisance?

For a first offence, if the nuisance is of a low level, you might expect to receive an infringement notice or “ticket”. An infringement notice is an on-the-spot fine and, if you pay it, you do not have to go to court and you will not have a conviction recorded against your name.

For repeat offences, or cases in which the nuisance is particularly serious (for example, where a struggle occurs in a licensed venue), it is not uncommon for heavier penalties such as fines, community service, probation, or even imprisonment, to be imposed.

Can I Get a Ticket for Public Nuisance?

Yes. If you receive an infringement notice for public nuisance you have the right to ask that the matter be heard by a magistrate in court, or you can choose to pay the fine amount and that will be the end of the matter.

Which Court Will Hear my Matter?

All public nuisance charges, if they are determined by a court, are heard in the Magistrates Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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