Breach of the peace is not a criminal offence and is an irregularity in the Law of England and Wales. Despite having been part of our law for centuries, dating back to Henry II, it does not have an agreed definition. The understanding of the concept therefore, comes from case law.
This case law tells us that a breach of the peace may occur anywhere, including private premises, if
- Harm is actually done or is likely to be done to a person whether by the conduct of the person against whom a breach of the peace is alleged or by someone whom it provokes.
- Harm is actually done or is likely to be done to a person's property in his presence.
- A person is genuinely in fear of harm to himself or to his property in his presence as a result of an assault, affray, riot or other disturbance.
The conduct of the person in question does not have to be disorderly, however, there must be an incidence of violence on her part, therefore, verbal abuse is insufficient to amount to a breach of the peace. Similarly, mere agitation does not amount to a breach of the peace where there is no question of harm or threat of harm and it is for the justices to decide whether or not there has been a breach of the peace in those particular circumstances.
Finally, where a person's conduct is lawful but provoking, preventative steps cannot be taken against her if her behaviour is reasonable.