Breach Of The Peace / Disorderly Conduct
1. What is the legal definition for ‘Breach Of The Peace’?
Ans: Under section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act,
Any person who is found guilty of any riotous, disorderly or indecent behaviour in any public road or any public place or place of public amusement or resort, or near, or in, any court, public office, police station or place of worship.
The meaning of disorderly was explained in Public Prosecutor v Iberahim bin Karim  SGDC 182 (at ):
In Black’s Law Dictionary the word “disorderly ” means “contrary to rules of good order and behaviour; violative of the public peace or good order; turbulent, riotous or indecent” and “disorderly conduct” is defined as “…. generally, any behaviour that is contrary to law, and more particularly such as tend to disturb the public peace or decorum, scandalise the community, or shock the public sense of morality. An offence against public morals, peace or safety……(see page 469 of Black‘s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition)
Under Section 268 of the Penal Code,
A person is guilty of a public nuisance, who does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission, which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public, or to the people in general who dwell or occupy the property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have
occasion to use any public right.
2.What are some examples of ‘Breach Of The Peace’ or ‘Disorderly Conduct’?
Ans: Following from the above, we can refer to several decisions:
1) In the District Court in Public Prosecutor v Iberahim bin Karim  SGDC
The accused who is blind refused to comply with the police to walk on pavement instead of the road. He then argues with the police, shouting profanity and gesticulating at Tampines Central 5. Despite receiving a warning from the police officer that he could be charged under Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act (at -), he continued to argue and shout.
2) In the District Court in Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Azimmi bin Jamaluddin and others  SGDC 269 (at ):
While he was being interviewed by police, the accused shouted vulgarities at the police and waved his hands in the air, ignoring the police’s instructions to calm down. The accused actions amounted to disorderly behaviour in a public place. Thus he had committed the offence of disorderly behaviour in a public place under Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
3) In the District Court in Public Prosecutor v Han Hui Hui and others SGDC 225 (at 4):
Three of the accused disrupted YMCA event marching around the general vicinity of the YMCA event; shouting loudly; chanting slogans; waving flags; holding placards; blowing whistles loudly, and beating drums. The acts did disrupt the YMCA event and caused annoyance to the public, and have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 290 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).
3. What are the examples that are not constituted as ‘Breach Of The Peace’ or ‘Disorderly Conduct’?
Ans: In the Magistrates Court Public Prosecutor v Wong Hong Ming and Another  SGMC 3 (at ) the accused was charged under section 20 but was discharge amounting to an acquittal upon their charges. The judge stated that:
“I did not think that ‘talking’ back to police officers, gesturing and laughing when the police officers were standing within arms–length from them was conduct sufficiently “deeply or seriously enough to warrant the interference of the criminal law”. “ In addition to that, any acts that do not fall in section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, does not constitute disorderly conduct.
4. In order to determine the offence, what are the factors that the law will be assessing?
(a) In the Magistrates Court Public Prosecutor v Wong Hong Ming and Another  SGMC 3 (at  and ) the judge stated that
There needs to be evidence led by the prosecution as to the effect which the alleged “disorderly behaviour” had on members of the public. In addition to that, the act needs to “seriously offend against those values of orderly conduct recognised by right-thinking members of the public”. Lastly, being rude and inapt might not cross the threshold of being “disorderly behaviour
(b) In Mani Nedumaran v Public Prosecutor (1998) 1 SLR 411 at , it was held that case of riotous behaviour [under section 20] meriting the maximum punishment might include – for example – racially motivated attacks or disturbances of a subversive, anti-government nature”.
5. What can a victim do if faced with a ‘Breach of The Peace’ / ‘Disorderly Conduct’?
Ans: The victim can inform the police of such case by calling the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. If you require urgent Police assistance, please dial ‘999’. This was demonstrated in various cases where victim or witnesses will call the police to inform them of such a situation.
6. When caught with ‘Breaching of The Peace’ / ‘Disorderly Conduct’, is it advisable to plead guilty or no-contest? Why?
Ans: Depending on the case.
An accused may plead guilty if he is remorseful for the offence committed.
Pleading guilty is viewed as an indicator of remorse and is a mitigating factor when the judge considers the punishment to be meted out to the accused.
This means that pleading guilty can help to lower the punishment received for committing the offence.
7. What is the punishment by law if one is involved in ‘Breach of The Peace’ / ‘Disorderly
Ans: Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act states that,
- First time offender: shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both
- Repeat offender: in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
In the Magistrate Court in Public Prosecutor v Yan Jun  SGMC 19 (at )
As for how this length of imprisonment was determined, the Prosecution submitted that from a survey of reported decisions under section 20 of the MOA, there are no considered or comprehensive sentencing guidelines for this offence. Hence, the Prosecution proposed a sentencing framework for such offences similar to the harm-culpability matrix that was used by the learned Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in Logachev Vladislav v PP  SGHC 12 for the offence of cheating at play under section 172A of the Casino Control Act (Cap 33A, 2007 Rev Ed).
The Punishment for Public Nuisance is stated in Section 290 of the Penal Code,
Whoever commits a public nuisance in any case not otherwise punishable by this Code, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punished —
(a) with fine which may extend to $2,000;
(b) in the case where the offender knew that the act or omission constituting the public nuisance will cause or will probably cause any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public, or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months, or with fine which may extend to $2,000, or with both; or
(c) on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months, or with fine which may extend to $2,000, or with both.