Home Office annoucement on new powers protect vulnerable from sexual predators

Home Office annoucement on new powers protect vulnerable from sexual predators

14
SHARE

On 9 October 2013, the Home Office announced there would be ‘tighter restrictions on sex offenders’ in a new Bill which will make its way through Parliament in 2014.

The announcement was headed

‘New measures to give greater powers for the police to protect the vulnerable from sexual predators have been unveiled by the Home Office.’

The new powers will, the Home Office claim, ‘make it easier to restrict the activities of anyone who poses a risk of sexual harm to children and adults.’ As usual with government announcements like these, there is scant detail, however the press release states that ‘the threshold for risk will be lowered to cover any case of sexual harm, not just cases of serious sexual harm.’

Who do they apply to?

Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (Sexual Offences Act 2003 s 104 onwards)

Currently, there are two types of SOPO:

1) Made after a conviction for an offence listed in SOA 2003 Sch 3 or 5

i) The necessity test must be met (it is necessary to make such an order for the purpose of protecting the public, or any particular members of the public from serious sexual harm from the defendant)

These include the major sexual offences, but also offences such as murder, making threats to kill, outraging public decency and endangering the safety of railway passengers. It also includes ABH and assault with intent to resist arrest.

2) A ‘stand-alone’ order, where a police force can apply to the court for an order to be made, where

  1. The defendant is a qualifying offender

i. Convicted of a Schedule 3 or 5 offence,

ii. Cautioned in respect of a Schedule 3 or 5 offence, or

iii. Convicted of or cautioned for an equivalent Schedule 3 or 5 offence outside the jurisdiction

iv. (there are other criteria which for the purposes of this piece are not relevant)

  1. The necessity test is met (it is necessary to make such an order for the purpose of protecting the public, or any particular members of the public from serious sexual harm from the defendant)

Risk of Sexual Harm Order (Sexual Offences Act 2003 s 123 onwards)

The court has the power to make a stand-alone order where a police force have applied to the court. The individual must be aged 18+ and who has on at least two occasions have done one of the following acts:

(a) engaging in sexual activity involving a child or in the presence of a child;

(b) causing or inciting a child to watch a person engaging in sexual activity or to look at a moving or still image that is sexual;

(c) giving a child anything that relates to sexual activity or contains a reference to such activity;

(d) communicating with a child, where any part of the communication is sexual.

This does not require a conviction.

The press release stated:

‘Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned for a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas…and can be made by a court on conviction, or if the police or National Crime Agency (NCA) apply to a magistrates’ court.

Sexual Risk Orders can be applied to any individual who poses a risk of sexual harm in the UK or abroad, even if they have never been convicted. They will replace the Risk of Sexual Harm Order.’

The press release therefore appears to suggest that the criteria will be the same as before.

How long will they last?

A SOPO must be for a minimum of 5 years and can last indefinitely.

A Risk of Sexual Harm Order must not be for a period less than 2 years.

The press release stated:

The new Sexual Harm Prevention Order will last for a minimum of 5 years with no maximum.

The new Sexual Risk Order will last for a minimum of 2 years with no maximum.

No change there then.

Restrictions

SOPOs impose restrictions on people’s behaviour which are designed to protect the public. The restrictions tailor made by the court to meet the needs of the individual case. Below are some terms approved in one recent case.

(i) possessing any photograph in any form of any child under 16 years other than a member of the offender’s family, and then only with the written permission of the child’s parent or guardian (not including the offender),

(ii) possession of any computer, iPhone or mobile telephone without notifying the offender’s monitoring police or probation officer of its acquisition within three days thereof,

(iii) using any computer, etc., capable of accessing the internet that did not have the capacity to retain and display the history of internet use,

(iv) attempting to delete the internet history on any computer, etc., and

(v) denial of access by a police officer to any such history on request.

Risk of Sexual Harm Orders also prohibit individuals from doing certain acts. The restrictions operate in a similar way to SOPOs.

The press release stated:

‘Both powers can place a range of restrictions on individuals depending on the nature of the case, such as limiting their internet use, preventing them from being alone with a child under 16, or preventing travel abroad.

As you can see, the situation appears to be very much preserving the status quo / wasting time and money [delete as appropriate to your view].

So what is *actually* new?

The press release states:

‘The threshold for risk will be lowered to cover any case of sexual harm, not just cases of serious sexual harm.’

This would appear to suggest that the test (listed above in the SOPO section) will be lowered, thereby making it easier to impose such an order.

This raises questions as to why this is necessary, what research has been conducted to support this, and whether there are currently police forces and prosecution counsel applying for these orders and the applications are being refused not on the grounds that the individual does not pose a risk of harm, but that the harm likely to be suffered is not serious enough to warrant making an order.

With little detail, we will have to wait and see. But once again, this strikes me as a PR exercise with little by way of substance.

14 COMMENTS

    • I think you may have missed the point of the post. I don’t think there is much that is going to change, and these new powers if enacted will not enabled anyone to be ‘hunted’.

  1. Sisterhood: this time you are dead right.

    Do you know Politician’s Syndrome?

    Something must be done.
    This is something.
    Therefore we must do this.

    The difficulties in getting any such order without proper evidence from a person with first-hand knowledge defy description.

    It is b.s. and claptrap.

  2. For the avoidance of doubt: It was sisterhood’s second post at (5.44 yesterday) which was dead right. Not her first.

  3. Re Risk of Sexual Harm Order
    The bit that concerns me is “This does not require a conviction” & “even if they have never been convicted”

    There is great amount of stigma with these orders and now they are saying they can impose even where there was no conviction. (without stereotyping) there will be cases where sexual the allegation is made up even by multiple complainants against the same defendant, defendant manages to clear his name (acquitted at court or refused charge at police station stage) and when he just thinks his reputation is restored, they police can seek to impose an order (regardless of the specific conditions) damages his character.

    What is this, “Innocence until proven guilty”, if the latter you’ll get a SOPO, if the former you may get a SHO

  4. Whilst we should all be keen to protect the vulnerable, we must be aware that basic human rights are being compromised in these proposals. One will not have to be convicted of a crime to end up being under the control of one of these orders. This is already happening in the safeguarding arena where the idea of being innocent until proven guilty in a court of law has all but gone. About 1 in 4 teachers will face accusations in their careers and one presumes they will be excluded from teaching in future – whether they be innocent or guilty. People are falsely accused (see http://www.factuk.org) and some face injustice as a result…and even more injustice following this bill. Remember these orders will be controlled by magistrates and the police not courts with a jury. This is all very dangerous. I always think that one can tell when a government is in trouble or is seeking popularity: it is when it starts kicking paedophiles, They know it is going to be supported by the majority and few MPs will vote against, yet the measures rarely do anything to protect children as most abuse takes place within the home environment.

  5. Cf. also the power given to a mags court to make a restraining order after finding a defendant not guilty of d.v. I have never heard of it being done and I hope I never will.

LEAVE A REPLY