The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c.33) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It introduced a number of changes to the existing law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights and in greater penalties for certain "anti-social" behaviours. A main motivation was to restrict outdoor rave parties, in particular in reaction to the 1992 Castlemorton Common Festival.[1] The Bill was introduced by Michael Howard, home secretary of Prime Minister John Major's Conservative government, and attracted widespread opposition.


Changes which received great public attention included:

  • Sections 34–39, which substantially changed the right to silence of an accused person, allowing for inferences to be drawn from their silence.
  • Sections 54–59, which gave the police greater rights to take and retain intimate body samples.
  • Section 60, which increased police powers of unsupervised "stop and search".
  • Section 80, which repealed the duty imposed on councils by the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to provide sites for gypsy and traveller use. Grant aid for the provision of sites was also withdrawn.
  • Section 143, though not given much consideration, legalised anal sex between heterosexual couples. The demand that "no other person present", as in the Sexual Offences Act 1967, for homosexual couples was not included, though the age prescribed was 18, i.e. higher than the general age of consent of 16 but lower than the then-age of 21 for homosexuals.

The whole of Part V which covered collective trespass and nuisance on land and included sections against raves (63–67, including the "repetitive beats" definition[1]) and further sections against disruptive trespass, squatters, and unauthorised campers – most significantly the criminalisation of previously civil offences. This affected many forms of protest including hunt sabotage and anti-road protests.

Part VII handled "Obscenity and Pornography", banning simulated child pornography, harshening provisions dealing with the censorship and age restriction of videos, and also increasing the penalty on obscene phone calls.

Part XI dealt with sexual offences. The definition of rape was extended to include anal rape.

Further, the age at which homosexual acts were lawful was reduced from 21 years to 18. During the passage of the Bill, MPs considered an amendment to reduce this age to 16 (thereby equating it with the age of consent for heterosexual sex) but the motion was rejected by 27 votes. Analysis of the division list revealed that 42 Conservative MPs had supported equalisation, and the motion would have carried but for the opposing votes of 38 Labour MPs.[2][3]

Part XII was a miscellany, and included the notice that the "Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. (was henceforth) to be arrestable", although this was later to be modified by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Part XII also criminalised the use of cells from embryos and foetuses.

Provisions in the Act that purported to allow for the dismissal of a seafarer from a merchant navy vessel on the ground of homosexual activity, which had been superseded by the Equality Act 2010, were repealed in February 2017.[4]


When the legislation was still under debate, the Advance Party coordinated a campaign of resistance against the bill. The group was composed of an alliance of sound systems and civil liberties groups.[5] Two demonstrations were organised in London on 24 July and 9 October 1994. The latter took the form of a march which ended up as a riot at Hyde Park.[6]


The law's attempt to define music in terms of "repetitive beats" has been described as "bizarre" by legal experts.[1] Jon Savage, author of books on youth culture, said of the legislation in Bill form, "It's about politicians making laws on the basis of judging people's lifestyles, and that's no way to make laws."[7] The Act was described as a piece of legislation which was "explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture", the main targets being squatting, direct action, football fan culture, hunt sabotage and the free party.[8] The sections which specifically refer to parties or raves are seen as badly defined [9] and drafted in an atmosphere of "clear moral panic" following the Castlemorton Common Festival.[10]

In response to the proposed bill, British electronica band Autechre released the three-track Anti EP on Warp Records, stating:

The fifth mix on the Internal version of Orbital's Are We Here? EP was titled "Criminal Justice Bill?". It consisted of approximately four minutes of silence.

"Their Law", a song by electronic dance band The Prodigy and Pop Will Eat Itself, was written as a direct response to the bill.[citation needed] A quotation in the booklet of the Prodigy's 1994 album Music for the Jilted Generation read "How can the government stop young people having a good time? Fight this bollocks." The album featured a drawing, commissioned by the band from Les Edwards, that depicts a young male rebel figure protecting a rave from an impending attack of riot police.[11]

In 1993, the band Dreadzone released a single called "Fight the Power" in opposition to the proposed Criminal Justice Bill.[12] The Dreadzone mix of this song has samples from Noam Chomsky that talk about taking action and "taking control of your lives", advocating political resistance to the proposed bill. The cover artwork for the single has a picture of a young woman with a baby stroller, which has a political poster affixed to it with the words "Kill the Bill".

The Network Records / Six6 Records music compilation album NRB:58 No Repetitive Beats (1994) was released in opposition to the proposed Bill. The album's liner notes said "For every copy of "No Repetitive Beats" sold Network will pay a royalty to D.I.Y. / All Systems No! (an advance payment of £3,000 was made before the release of the album). The monies will be used by D.I.Y. / All Systems No! towards the cost of a sound system which will be on hand to replace any sound equipment seized by the police using draconian powers granted to them by the Criminal Justice Bill to stop music "wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats". The Bill is unjust and tramples across common sense and civil rights. If you want to help throw the CJB out contact the human rights organisation Liberty (071 403 3888). Fight for your right to party."[13]

The B-side to Zion Train's 1995 "Dance of Life" single included a track entitled "Resist the Criminal Justice Act".

UK garage act The Streets also criticise the legislation in the track "Weak Become Heroes" from their 2002 debut album Original Pirate Material, as indicated by the lyric : “and to the government I stick my middle finger up with regards to the Criminal Justice Bill".

Examples of the Act in use

In 2009, Section 63 of the Act was used by police to shut down a birthday barbecue held on legal property for 15 people.[14][15]

See also


^ The Act specifically defines "music" to include "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats."


  1. ^ a b Chester, Jerry (2017-05-28). "The rave that changed the law". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-11-27. 
  2. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 21 Feb 1994". parliament.uk. 
  3. ^ "Gay Age of Consent: Currie needed just 14 Labour supporters: 'Noes' from opposition parties that were natural supporters of equality amendment are focus of recriminations". The Independent. 23 February 1994. 
  4. ^ "Homosexual acts in the merchant navy: repeals". They Work For You. 8 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Brewster B. & Broughton F. (1999) Last Night a Dj Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, Page 373, Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3688-5
  6. ^ Firsthand account, retrieved November 1, 2006
  7. ^ The Faber Book of Pop (1995), ed. Hanif Koureshi and Jon Savage, p. 799
  8. ^ Gilbert J. (1999)Discographies: Dance Music, Culture, and the Politics of Sound, Page 150, Routledge ISBN 0-415-17032-X
  9. ^ ed. South N. (1999) Drugs: Cultures, Controls and Everyday Life, Page 30, SAGE Publications ISBN 0-7619-5235-7
  10. ^ Meaden, B. (2006) TRANCENational ALIENation Page 19, Lulu, ISBN 1-4116-8543-1
  11. ^ Psaar, Hans-Christian (2009-01-28). "Commodities for the Jilted Generation". Datacide. Retrieved 2017-11-27. 
  12. ^ http://www.music.us/biography/artist/30843/dread_zone.html
  13. ^ Liner notes, NRB:58 No Repetitive Beats, NRB58CD, Network Records / Six6 Records
  14. ^ Richard Savill (16 July 2009). "Police close down Facebook barbecue for 15 people". Telegraph.co.uk. 
  15. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - England - Devon - Police helicopter sent to 'rave'". bbc.co.uk. 

External links