The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Clifton Suspension Bridge from one side looking across

Things to know when going out in town


If you’re drunk and causing problems, you can be arrested for being Drunk and Disorderly.

If you use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, in public and within the sight or hearing of a person likely to suffer harassment, alarm or distress as a result, you can be arrested for causing Harassment, Alarm or Distress.

Both offences carry maximum fines of £1,000. They can alternatively be dealt with by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice (“FPN”), which is a spot fine of £80. FPNs are designed to deal with low-level offences, to save the administrative and financial burden of bringing a full-blown prosecution. Accepting an FPN doesn’t mean that you’re admitting to the offence, but it does prevent the police from charging you.

If you don’t pay the FPN within 21 days:

  • a fine of one and a half times the value of the FPN can be registered against you - that fine is then enforceable through the courts;
  • the police can choose to prosecute you for the offence which caused you to be issued with an FPN in the first place.

Urinating in the street

Urinating in the street is pretty likely to cause someone else distress! As such, it’s an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and may get you a £80 FPN or a £1,000 fine if prosecuted.

Having sex, or getting your bits out, in public can also come under this offence. 

Fighting (however much you think it’s justified at the time) can land you in a lot of trouble. At the more minor end of the scale, you may face charges of assault, battery and/or affray. Even these relatively minor charges carry a maximum prison term of 3 years (for affray). And none of them look good on a CV.

Stealing traffic cones

As well as making you a huge cliché, stealing traffic cones and road signs is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Theft and Criminal Damage (which can include graffiti) can carry a fine of up to £5,000 or a prison term of 6 months. Depending of the value of the items stolen/damaged, these offences may be dealt with by an FPN but remember that this is discretionary.