The Police are to be given greater powers to restrict the freedom of any individual they suspect of being a potential sex offender, under government proposals, even if such person has never been convicted of a sexual offence.
Sexual Risk Order
The restrictions, which could be used against a person who has never been convicted of a sexual offence, include limiting internet use and preventing travel abroad. Breaching such a sexual risk order could lead to a five-year jail sentence. A sexual risk order would last a minimum of two years and have no maximum duration.
The Government said the Police will have greater powers to restrict “any person they judge to be a risk”. The orders can be applied for by Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) officers through the Magistrates Court.
A further type of order, for those who have been convicted of or cautioned about sexual offences, is also proposed. The sexual harm prevention order, which would replace sexual offences prevention orders and foreign travel orders, would last a minimum of five years and have no maximum duration. It would apply to those convicted of sexual or violent offences either in the UK or overseas.
Damian Green, the Policing and Criminal Justice minister, said the new measures will be taken out against anyone who “poses a risk of sexual harm in the UK or abroad, even if they have never been convicted”.
“The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders.
“We are going even further by giving Police and National Crime Agency officers the power to place greater restrictions on any person they judge to be a risk.
“This is part of ongoing work to look at how the police and other agencies can better identify and deal with sexual offending, ensuring victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system.”
The moves come after charity Childhood Lost called for tougher measures to protect young people from sexual abuse. A report commissioned by Peter Davies, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the use of orders was “grossly disproportionately low” compared to the total number of child sex offenders. The report indicated this was because the legal threshold that had to be satisfied was too high and measures “over-complicated”.
However, critics understandably have concerns in relation to the orders which allow for the rights of individuals to be restricted where they have not even been convicted of any offence. Richard Atkinson, who chairs the criminal law committee of the Law Society said he had concerns about the proposals:
“Of course, a great deal of stigma is attached to anyone who has such an order made and if the process of obtaining these orders is less than that is needed for a conviction then that’s a very worrying departure from our normal standards.”
MPs will debate the measures which have been put forward as amendments to the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which is currently in the process of going through Parliament and expected to be given Royal Assent in Spring 2014.