Last week it was reported that after a man was acquitted of an unknown offence, an application was made at York Magistrates Court where he was made subject to an order that prevented him having any type of sexual activity with a woman without giving the Police at least 24 hours notice. Bizarre indeed. It is not clear what offence the man was acquitted of and what the concerns about his behaviour were.
Sexual Offences Law
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 amended Parts 2 and 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 giving Courts more powers to impose Orders against defendants.
Section 122A has been added to allow Courts to impose Sexual Risk Orders when they believe them to be appropriate. These are civil orders and can be applied for whether a person has been convicted of an offence or not. S122A (2) allows an order to be made when:-
(2)…….the defendant has, whether before or after the commencement of this Part, done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for a sexual risk order to be made.
The test it seems is quite “woolly” in the sense that a persuasive applicant could persuade a Court to impose an order in the circumstances, like here, where the defendant had been acquitted but there could be an ongoing risk. But would it be right to impose such stringent conditions such as these?
The Sexual Risk Order
It seems that the current order is an interim order, with a final decision being made on May 19th. If the full order is made than it can be granted for a minimum of 2 years and is potentially indefinite. Breaching an order can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years.
The law was designed to impose a set of prohibitions to stop people doing acts where there was a potential to cause harm to the public. The law was not designed to force people to undertake any kind of positive action which this restriction seems to be doing. In addition the conditions may fall foul of Human Rights Legislation, in particular Article 8, which is designed to prevent against unnecessary and heavy-handed state surveillance and intrusion into your personal life.
It will be interesting to see if the Court grants the same order at the final hearing or if it deems the conditions to be overly intrusive in the circumstances.
Toby Wilbraham – Specalist Criminal Lawyer
Written by Toby Wilbraham, Criminal Defence Solicitor. Toby is a highly experienced advocate in the Magistrates Court and also represents defendants as a Higher Court Advocate in the Crown Court. Toby specialises in defending those clients facing allegations of domestic violence as well as offences of sexual violence with significant success.