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Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

Leading defence lawyers specialising in Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO) and Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPO)

They are civil orders made by a court, and can be best described as a ‘Sexual ASBO’. Prior to March 2015 they were known as Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPO). Post March 2015 they are known as Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO).

Does a SHPO/SOPO require guilt?

Not necessarily. They can be made against any person who is convicted of a qualifying offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 but also can be made against someone based solely on alleged behaviour which did not result in a  prosecution. In order to make a order, the court must be satisfied that the offender presents a risk of sexual harm to the public (or particular members of the public) and that an order is necessary to protect against such risk. Such a scenario would be behaviour which does not amount to an offence but which the Police or Social Services consider troubling.

Is it recorded as a conviction and recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC)?

Any conviction in the criminal courts automatically is recorded as such. Any civil order imposed by the courts will show up on a PNC check. Of more relevance any such conviction or order would be present on any enhanced Disclosure and Barring search and would unless in exceptional circumstances prevent employment in certain areas.

When does it become spent?

After the length of the order. However, please be aware on some employment forms there is a specific request for all convictions including spent and also as above such convictions will show up on an enhanced DBS check.

What can a SOPO/SHPO include?

Each order is tailored to the particular offence so if the offence is possession of indecent images (a non contact offence) such an order should not include prohibitions to prevent contact.with children under the age of 18. If the victims were of the same gender, such an order should distinguish as such. The prohibitions need to be justified, proportionate and enforceable. Most SOPO/SHPO will regulate the use of the internet but will not prevent the carrying out of daily internet activities such as banking and shopping. In these cases the devices that the Police will be entitled to seize any device and check its internet history.

Can I have a SOPO/SHPO discharged or varied?

Are you one of the thousands of people who are subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) or as of March 2015 known as a Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO)?

Are you one of the many defendants whose notification period (signing on the Sex Offences Register) has expired but still having to sign on because there is a SOPO is in place, many years after the original offence?

Well if you are, then the law thinks it is necessary for you to be subject to one, to protect the public from serious sexual harm’ and if in breach you can receive a term of imprisonment for up to five years.

Discharge/Vary Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO)

Section 103 Sexual Offences Act gives the court discretion to vary or discharge such an order if the court is of the opinion that one of the following (non exhaustive factors) apply:-

  1. The subject is no longer considered a risk of serious sexual harm to members of the public.
  2. Such an order is disproportionate, particularly when considering the original offence that led to the imposition of the order.
  3. If it cannot be policed effectively,
  4. That is infringes fundamental human rights specifically Article 8 ECHR (right to a private and family life),
  5. That it infringes other rights such as the right to employment,
  6. That it is being used by the police to circumvent their procedures such as the use of search warrants,
  7. The risk may not have been properly identifiable and the wording of the order not reflective of this. For instance should those who have been convicted of viewing indecent images (non contact offence) then be subject to non contact conditions?
  8. Alternatively, are you unhappy at the way your offender manager is dealing with your case? – attending at your place of work, speaking to neighbours about your movements and activities?

We have extensive experience of such orders, having advised numerous clients in relation to these matters. We have successfully had many clients removed from the register and SOPO/SHPO orders discharged allowing them to move along with their lives. All enquiries are dealt with in a sensitive, confidential and professional manner.

How does it tie in with the notification requirements?

The two normally run in tandem and complement each other. However there are occasions when the notification requirements have expired yet the SOPO continues to be in force. This is because if you are subject to such an order you automatically notify. In these instances the courts are usually sympathetic to the order being discharged. Recent judicial practice is that the length of each order should be of the same duration.

I have breached the order – does that matter?

It is worth noting that if there have been minor breaches in this period this would not normally have an adverse effect on the decision. There is also a right of appeal to the local Magistrates’ Court.

The courts don’t view these orders as punishment but rather as managing risk once the punitive part of the sentence has expired, usually a prison term. However for offenders looking to rehabilitate it is viewed as a punishment.

Further ex-offenders will often go to some lengths to hide their conviction and restrictions imposed by these orders which can impact upon their employment and ability to forge new relationships. Common questions include do I need to tell my partner matters for which I was found not guilty of and do I have to register a device that I only use at work?

Also as technology advances many older orders are now not simply fit for purpose. When these orders were first imposed it banned the use of the internet entirely. These were the days before the internet became integral to our daily lives. Also phones now have built in cameras and this technology was not envisaged when the orders were drawn up.

If you are subject to any of these restrictions and require advice on the following areas please contact Olliers as we have many years experience in this area and have helped numerous  ex-offenders.

Are you entitled to legal aid to have the order varied?

In some instances this may be covered under the original legal aid certificate  but in the majority of instances the application will be privately funded. Olliers Solicitors only undertake such work on a privately funded basis.

Recent News Items about SHPO/SOPO

How can Olliers help me?

We can help with the following areas:

  • Where there are differing lengths of the SOPO/SHPO to the notification period. This can have the consequence of being subject to notification longer than the Court ordered. In this instance the SOPO/SHPO can be discharged. The 2011 Court of Appeal case of  R v Smith gives guidance on this.
  •  Where the period of notification has been extended retrospectively as a result of the 2004 case of R v Wiles.
  • Where the restrictions imposed by the SOPO/SHPO are having an adverse effect upon your family, step children or employment and an application to vary the order is needed.
  • Where you have been subject to the notification requirements for in excess of 15 years.
  • Where there are difficulties in your relationship with your offender manager,  social services or the use of polygraph tests.
  • Where you believe you have been wrongly convicted or sentenced excessively and require advice on appeal.


Here is what previous clients have said:-

  • ‘I can’t thank you enough, it’s like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I now have a future that I can cope with and enjoy.’ Mr D (2019)
  • ‘Thank you so so much for all of your support and expertise,  it was such a comfort during a truly awful time. Also I did my research and you were recommended by others too, as one of the best in Manchester on such matters.’ Mr T (2020)
  • ‘Thank you for your help with this matter. I am very grateful for your time and resolving this matter.’ Mr C (2019). ‘I would like to Thank you for all your help as our solicitor, you have been brilliant. The outcome is fantastic, better than we had hoped’. Mr P (2019)

Need a Specialist SOPO/SHPO Removal Lawyer?

We have successfully represented many clients in discharging or varying such orders. We are experienced in dealing with different police forces around the country and applying to courts nationwide. Such applications have to be carefully drafted, evidence has to be gathered and assessed to provide the best chance of success.

If you wish to discuss making an  application for varying or discharging a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) or Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) please contact our specialist team by telephone on 0161 8341515, by email to or complete the form below to send us a message.

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