Public disorder 

Impact 5
upper risk error bar
upper likelihood error bar
risk indicator
lower likelihood error bar
lower impact error bar
ID 58
Risk theme Societal
Impact & Likelihood
Impact key
5 Catastrophic
4 Significant
3 Moderate
2 Limited
1 Minor
Likelihood key
5 >25%
4 5-25%
3 1-5%
2 0.2-1%
1 <0.2%


Public disorder is a highly unpredictable risk. Although the majority of protests in the UK remain peaceful, on rare occasions these events can escalate towards conflict. The primary driver may be long-standing grievances, or it could occur as a spontaneous response to a single incident. Peaceful protests are not considered a form of public disorder, and the right to protest is enshrined in UK law.


The reasonable worst-case scenario is based on large-scale disorder that significantly impacts the emergency services and government. In this scenario there is criminal damage to public and private property, increased acquisitive crime, arson, rioting, looting and reduced community cohesion. Injuries would be expected to both members of the public and those involved in the emergency services response. There would be a risk of fatalities, with health services coming under increased pressure. There may also be reduced confidence in the police and government.

Key assumptions

It is assumed that there may be a number of specific trigger or flash points, which would lead to localised disorder across urban locations, simultaneously or sequentially.


A more impactful variation is large-scale disorder breaking out at multiple sites across large parts of the UK, which could stretch police resources. A less impactful variation would be large-scale disorder breaking out in a single large city or region in the UK.

Response capability requirements

Key response capabilities could include police support units, evidence gathering teams, custody, mounted police and baton rounds.


There would be long-term consequences on the economy – especially in areas that are already experiencing an economic downturn.