When you buy goods or services the law protects your consumer rights.
You can get help if you’re treated unfairly or when things go wrong. This includes:
- faulty goods
- poor service
- problems with contracts
- problems with builders
- rogue traders
Citizens Advice can give you help and advice about your consumer rights.
08454 04 05 06
Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
Not what you’re looking for?
Anyone over the age of 10 can be given an ASBO if they behave anti-socially.
Behaving anti-socially includes:
- drunken or threatening behaviour
- vandalism and graffiti
- playing loud music at night
- Getting an ASBO means you won’t be allowed to do certain things, such as:
- going to a particular place, eg your local town centre
- spending time with people who are known as trouble-makers
- drinking in the street
- An ASBO will last for at least 2 years. It could be reviewed if your behaviour improves.
Penalties for not obeying your ASBO
Breaking or ‘breaching’ the ASBO is a criminal offence and you can be taken to court. The sentence you get will depend on the circumstances and your age.
You can be fined up to £250 (if you’re aged 10 to 14) or up to £1,000 (if you’re aged 15 to 17). The fine may have to be paid by your parents if you’re under 16. You might also get a community sentence or, if over the age of 12, a detention and training order (DTO) for up to 24 months.
You can be fined up to £5,000 or sentenced to 5 years in prison, or both
It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or having a child
- race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- sexual orientation
These are called ‘protected characteristics’.
You’re protected from discrimination in these situations:
- at work
- in education
- as a consumer
- when using public services
- when buying or renting property
- as a member or guest of a private club or association
You are legally protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.
You’re also protected from discrimination if:
you’re associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, eg a family member or friend
you’ve complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim
Action against discrimination
You can do something voluntarily to help people with a protected characteristic. This is called ‘positive action’.
Taking positive action is legal if people with a protected characteristic:
- are at a disadvantage
- have particular needs
- are under-represented in an activity or type of work
Being charged with a crime
If you are charged with a crime you will be given a ‘charge sheet’. This sets out the details of the crime you are being charged with.
The police will decide if you:
can go home until the court hearing – but may have to follow certain rules, known as ‘bail’
are kept in police custody until you are taken to court for your hearing
Your first court hearing after you are charged with a crime will be at a magistrates’ court or a ‘virtual court’ using video technology – even if your trial will be at a Crown Court later on.
If you’re under 18, your first hearing will usually be at a youth court.
If you’re under 17, the police must arrange for you to be held in local authority accommodation, if possible, before you go to court.
If you’re aged 12 to 16, the police can decide to keep you at the police station if they think it will protect the public.
All criminal cases start in a magistrates’ court.
Cases are heard by either:
a district judge
There isn’t a jury in a magistrates’ court.
Cases a magistrates’ court deals with
A magistrates’ court normally handles cases known as ‘summary offences’, eg:
- most motoring offences
- minor criminal damage
- being drunk and disorderly
- It can also deal with some of the more serious offences, eg:
- drugs offences
These are called ‘either way’ offences and can be heard either in a magistrates’ court or a Crown Court.
Cases that magistrates pass to the Crown Court
Magistrates’ courts always pass the most serious crimes to the Crown Court, eg:
These are known as ‘indictable offences’.
Being kept in custody or granted bail
In some cases, the magistrates court decides if you should be:
kept in custody – eg a police or court cell
granted ‘bail’, and let out on strict conditions – eg to keep away from named places or people
This may happen if:
another court hearing is needed
the court needs more information before passing sentence
your case is passed to the Crown Court for trial or sentencing
Sentences a magistrates’ court can give
The court can give punishments including:
up to 6 months in prison (or up to 12 months in total for more than one offence)
a fine of up to £5,000
a community sentence, like doing unpaid work in the community
Courts can also give a combination of punishments – eg a fine and unpaid work in the community.
Magistrates’ court verdict
If you pleaded not guilty you can appeal against your conviction and/or sentence.
If you pleaded guilty you can normally only appeal your sentence.
You should appeal within 21 days of the date you were sentenced.
Your appeal will be heard by the Crown Court.
Get an appeal application form
The appeal form comes with guidance notes – including when you must appeal by.
Download ‘Magistrates’ court appeal notice form’ (PDF, 17KB)
Send the form to the magistrates’ court where the original trial took place.
The court hearing
A few weeks before the hearing you’ll get a letter telling you where and when it is. This is normally your nearest Crown Court.
Appeal hearings usually last between 1 and 3 days.
The appeal decision
If you win your appeal against your conviction your sentence will no longer apply.
If you win your appeal against your sentence it will be reduced.
You may get any legal costs paid back (eg a solicitor’s fee) and you may be able to get compensation.
Use the form below to apply for compensation:
Download ‘Application for compensation for wrongful conviction form’ (PDF, 201KB)
If you lose your appeal, your original conviction will stay the same, but you may be able to appeal again. Get legal advice about making another appeal.
Being stopped by the police while driving
The police can stop a vehicle for any reason. If they ask you to stop, you should always pull over. You’re breaking the law if you don’t.
If you’re stopped, the police can ask to see your:
- driving licence
- insurance certificate
- MOT certificate
If you don’t have these documents with you, you have 7 days to take them to a police station. You’re breaking the law if you don’t show the requested documents within 7 days.
The police can also give you an on-the-spot fixed penalty notice for many minor offences and make you take a breath test in certain circumstances.
You can also have your vehicle seized if you’re stopped on suspicion of driving without insurance and for some other offences.
The police can stop you at any time and ask you to take a breath test (‘breathalyse’ you) if:
- they think you’ve been drinking
- you’ve committed a traffic offence
- you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident
- If you refuse to take a breath test, or fail to supply a sample of breath and don’t have a ‘reasonable excuse’, you can be arrested. A reasonable excuse could be a genuine physical or mental condition stopping you from giving a sample.
The breath test gives a result straight away. If it shows you’re not over the drink drive limit, you must be allowed to go.
If you fail the breath test, you’ll be taken to a police station and given 2 more breath tests. If they’re positive, you may be charged.
If you fail a breath test you can’t drive your car until you are sober. You can ask someone else to collect your car for you.
Minor motoring offences
The police can give you a ‘fixed penalty notice’ for many of the less serious traffic offences. If you get a fixed penalty notice this can result in a fine and/or penalty points on your licence.
If you build up 12 points within 3 years you could be disqualified from driving.
However, for minor offences the police also have the option of:
- taking no action
- issuing a warning
- offering driver training (in some cases)
- prosecuting you
- If you disagree with a fixed penalty notice
You can choose not to pay the fixed penalty if you believe that it was given unjustly, but you’ll have to argue your case in court.
Faults with your vehicle
If your vehicle has something wrong with it, eg a broken brake light, the police may give you a ‘vehicle defect rectification notice’.
You’ll need to get your vehicle fixed and provide proof that it’s been fixed (eg a receipt for the work from a mechanic). You have 14 days from the date of the notice to show the proof to the police.
The Data Protection Act
The Data Protection Act controls how your personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government.
Everyone who is responsible for using data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. They must make sure the information is:
- used fairly and lawfully
- used for limited, specifically stated purposes
- used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
- kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
- handled according to people’s data protection rights
- kept safe and secure
- not transferred outside the UK without adequate protection
There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as:
- ethnic background
- political opinions
- religious beliefs
- sexual health
- criminal records
Police cautions, warnings and penalty notices
The police or Crown Prosecution Service can give you a caution (warning) or a penalty notice if you commit a minor crime.
Cautions are given to adults aged 18 or over for minor crimes – eg writing graffiti on a bus shelter.
You have to admit an offence and agree to be cautioned. If you don’t agree, you can be arrested and charged.
A caution is not a criminal conviction, but it could be used as evidence of bad character if you go to court for another crime.
If you get a conditional caution, you’ll have to stick to certain rules and restrictions as part of your caution, eg:
going for treatment for drug abuse
fixing damage to a property
If you don’t stick to the conditions, you could be charged with a crime.
Cautions for under 18s
Young people aged 10 to 17 can get cautions called ‘reprimands’ or ‘warnings’ for minor offences.
The police will usually tell you off, and give you a ‘reprimand’, for a first offence.
They will give you a warning for a second offence, and tell you that you’ll be charged if you commit another crime.
Penalty notices for disorder
Penalty notices for disorder are given for offences like:
- possessing cannabis
- being drunk and disorderly in public
You’ll be asked to sign the penalty notice ticket. If you pay the penalty then you won’t get a criminal conviction.
You can ask for a trial if you disagree with the penalty notice. If you don’t ask for a trial but don’t pay the fine, you’ll get a bigger fine.
Request CCTV footage of yourself
You have the right to see CCTV footage of yourself and get a copy within 40 days of asking for it.
You need to make a request in writing to the owner of the closed circuit television (CCTV) system. The owner’s details are usually written on a sign attached to the camera, unless the owner is obvious (like a shop).
You need to provide enough information so that you can be identified in the footage, like:
- a specific date and time
- proof of your identity
- a description of yourself
The CCTV owner decides how they provide the footage. You can be charged a fee of up to £10 (the current maximum set by law).
The footage may be edited to protect the identities of other people.
CCTV footage of a crime
If the CCTV footage relates to a crime and the police have the footage, the police will tell you if you can see it.