The Public Order Act 1936 (1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6. c. 6) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed to control extremist political movements in the 1930s such as the British Union of Fascists (BUF).

Public Order Act 1936[1]
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to prohibit the wearing of uniforms in connection with political objects and the maintenance by private persons of associations of military or similar character; and to make further provision for the preservation of public order on the occasion of public processions and meetings and in public places.
Citation1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6. c. 6
Territorial extent England and Wales and Scotland[2]
Royal assent18 December 1936
Commencement1 January 1937[3]
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

Largely the work of Home Office civil servant Frank Newsam,[4] the Act banned the wearing of political uniforms in any public place or public meeting. (The first conviction under the Act was of police officer and fascist-sympathizer William Henry Wood, by Leeds Magistrates' Court on 27 January 1937.)[5][6] It also required police consent for political marches to go ahead (now covered by the Public Order Act 1986). The Act also prohibited organising, training or equipping an "association of persons ... for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police or of the armed forces of the Crown", or "for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object".

While the Act likely prevented a rapid comeback of the BUF, it may in fact have had the indirect result of actually improving their fortunes. The party's forced abandonment of paramilitary and armed tactics improved their relations with the police and, by making it more "respectable", increased the BUF appeal among traditionally conservative middle-class citizens, who became the party's main base in the years after the Public Order Act 1936 was passed.[7]

The Act was used extensively against IRA and Sinn Féin demonstrations in the 1970s, though the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland. In November 1974, 12 people were each fined the maximum £50 under the Act for wearing black berets at Speakers' Corner during a Sinn Féin anti-internment rally.[8]

The Public Order Act 1936 was also used extensively against the flying pickets during the 1984/5 miners' strike. The police used it on the grounds of preventing a breach of the peace. In 2015 and 2016, this act has also been used against Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen of the far-right political movement Britain First.[9][10][11]

Section 5 - Conduct conducive to breach of the peace


This section created the offence of conduct conducive to breach of the peace. This section was repealed by section 40(3) of, and Schedule 3 to, the Public Order Act 1986. The offence under this section was abolished by section 9(2)(d) of that Act.

The offence under this section is replaced by the offence of fear or provocation of violence, contrary to section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986.[12]

See also



  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 10(1) of this Act.
  2. ^ The Public Order Act 1936, section 10(2)
  3. ^ The Public Order Act 1936, section 10(3)
  4. ^ Allen of Abbeydale, "Newsam, Sir Frank Aubrey (1893–1964)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn., January 2008, accessed 12 June 2009.
  5. ^ "First Political Uniform Prosecution". The Yorkshire Post. British Newspaper Archive. 28 January 1937. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  6. ^ "O WHAT A FALL!". The New York Times. 9 February 1937. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  7. ^ G. C. Webber, "Patterns of Membership and Support for the British Union of Fascists", in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 1984): 597.
  8. ^ "12 who wore...", The Times, 21 November 1974, p 3
  9. ^ "Britain First's Jayda Fransen Guilty Of Religious Harassment And Issued With Restraining Order". Huffington Post. 3 November 2016.
  10. ^ Wright, Paul (16 February 2016). "Britain First: Leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen arrested for 'wearing political uniforms'". International Business Times.
  11. ^ "Britain First: donning the uniform of victimhood". Spiked Online.
  12. ^ Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice, 1999, para. 29-27 at p.2327