Changes to Sex Offenders Register

February 18, 2011 2:23 pm

The Government response to the Supreme Court ruling about the human rights of sex offenders is to make the minimum possible changes to the law in order to comply with the ruling.  These are summarised below.

  • A review led by the police and involving all the relevant agencies will be carried out so that a full picture of the risks to the public can be considered.
  • Offenders will be able to apply for consideration of removal only after waiting 15 years following release from custody. In England and Wales, there will be no automatic appeals.  In Scotland there is already a scheme to give offenders an automatic right of appeal for removal from the register after 15 years.
  • The final decision on whether an offender should remain on the register will be down to the police, and not, as in Scotland, the courts.  There will be no right of appeal against the police’s decision to keep an offender on the register. That decision will be final. Sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register, and will do so for life if necessary
  • There will be a targeted consultation aimed at closing four existing loopholes in the sex offenders register:
    1.  it will be compulsory for sex offenders to report to the authorities before travelling abroad – currently they are free to travel for up to three days.
    2. Sex offenders must notify the authorities whenever they are living in a household with children under 18.
    3. Sex offenders must notify the authorities weekly of where they can be found when of no fixed abode.
    4. Sex offenders can no longer avoid being on the register by changing their names by deed poll.

 

The text of the Home Secretary’s statement :

The sex offenders register has existed since 1997. Since that time, it has helped the police to protect the public from those most horrific of crimes. Requiring serious sexual offenders to sign the register for life, as they do now, has broad support across the House, but the Supreme Court ruled last April that not granting sex offenders the opportunity to seek a review was a breach of their human rights-in particular, the right to a private or family life. Those are rights, of course, that those offenders have taken away from their victims in the cruellest and most degrading manner possible.

The Government are disappointed and appalled by that ruling. It places the rights of sex offenders above the right of the public to be protected from the risk of their reoffending, but there is no possibility of further appeal. The Government are determined to do everything we can to protect the public from predatory sexual offenders, so we will make the minimum possible changes to the law in order to comply with the ruling. I want to make it clear that the Court’s ruling does not mean that paedophiles and rapists will automatically come off the sex offenders register. The Court found only that they must be given the right to seek a review.

The Scottish Government have already implemented a scheme to give offenders an automatic right of appeal for removal from the register after 15 years. We will implement a much tougher scheme. Offenders will be able to apply for consideration of removal only after waiting 15 years following release from custody. In England and Wales, there will be no automatic appeals. We will deliberately set the bar for those reviews as high as possible. Public protection must come first. A robust review, led by the police and involving all the relevant agencies, will be carried out so that a full picture of the risks to the public can be considered.

The final decision on whether an offender should remain on the register will be down to the police, and not, as in Scotland, the courts. The police are best placed to assess the risk of an offender committing another crime, and they will rightly put the public first. There will be no right of appeal against the police’s decision to keep an offender on the register. That decision will be final. Sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register, and will do so for life if necessary.

When we are free to take further action to protect the public, we will do so. We will shortly launch a targeted consultation aimed at closing four existing loopholes in the sex offenders register. We will make it compulsory for sex offenders to report to the authorities before travelling abroad for even one day. That will prevent them from being free to travel for up to three days, as they are under the existing scheme. We will force sex offenders to notify the authorities whenever they are living in a household containing a child under the age of 18. We will require sex offenders to notify the authorities weekly of where they can be found when they have no fixed abode. We will tighten the rules so that sex offenders can no longer avoid being on the register when they change their names by deed poll.

The rest of the debate in available from the Hansard report here