What are public offences? - Solomon Star News

What are public offences?

24 October 2019
Ruth Liloqula

THIS week’s launch of the Public Order Offences Consultation Paper marks the beginning of information dissemination and consultations on the offences under public order.

That’s according to Ruth Liloqula of the Law Reform Commission (LRC).

Liloqula said public order offences are offences used to control behaviors of people in public places and to promote public safety.

“These offences involve acts that interfere with the operation of society and the ability of people to function efficiently,” she said.

She added the behaviors have been labelled as criminal because they are contrary to shared norms, social values and customs, as they cause disruption to the public.

Liloqula added this group of offences need to be assessed and updated to ensure the freedoms of speech, assembly, association and movement, as provided for in the Constitution, are fairly balanced against the objective of public safety.

“This is because these freedoms are not absolute. 

“The freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly and association can be limited or qualified by laws made in the interest of public order, public safety, public morality and public health that are reasonable justifiable in a democratic society.”

Liloqula explained the right to freedom of movement can be limited by laws that impose restrictions on movement or residence that are reasonable required in the interest of defense, public safety or order, where those laws can also be reasonably justified in a democratic society.

“These rights, and the way they can be limited, are particularly important when considering offences that deal with rioting, and behaviors such as begging and being drunk in public,” she said.

Liloqula said the Penal Code [Cap 26] contains a range of offences, categorised under public order offences, aiming at protecting the safety and security of the public and the government.

“The offences include treason, unlawful assembly, riot, nuisance, unlawful society, behavior in public such as begging, idle and disorderly, drunkenness and soliciting prostitutes.

“The Penal Code also contains public health offences that deal with issues such as rubbish, animals and causing pollution,” she added.

She said the work on the Public Order Offices is part of the review of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code reference that was issued to the Commission some years ago.

Liloqula said the aim of the review is to update, simplify and ensure that the substantive and procedural criminal laws of Solomon Islands are kept relevant to the prevailing circumstances in the country.