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Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Amendments)

Volume 541: debated on Monday 5 March 2012

The Home Office is today introducing tough new measures in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Notification Requirements) (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 which will extend and strengthen the system of notification requirements placed on registered sex offenders (commonly referred to as the sex offenders’ register). We have also brought forward the draft Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order 2012, which will ensure that strict rules are put in place and a robust review is carried out on a case-by-case basis before any sex offender placed on the register for life can be removed. This will remove the legislative incompatibility identified by the Supreme Court in the case of R (on the application of F and Angus Aubrey Thompson) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 17. In this case, the Supreme Court made a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to the notification requirements for an indefinite period under section 82(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Government’s response [Cm 8293] to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ (JCHR) report: Nineteenth Report of Session 2010—12 HC 1549 Proposal for the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order 2011, published in October 2011, has today been laid before the House.

Protecting the public is a priority and to this end, the Home Office continues to engage with public protection agencies to ensure that the risk posed to the public by sexual offenders is managed effectively. New measures will make it compulsory for all offenders subject to the notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to: notify the police of all foreign travel (including travel outside of the UK of less than three days); notify weekly where they are not registered as regularly residing or staying at one place (i.e. where a registered sex offender has no sole or main residence and instead must notify the police of the place where he can regularly be found); notify where they are living in a household with a child under the age of 18; notify bank account and credit card details and notify information about their passports or other identity documents at each notification, tightening the rules so that sex offenders can no longer seek to avoid being on the register when they change their name. A summary of the responses received to the Home Office consultation on these changes is available on the Home Office website and will be placed in the House Library.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order 2012 will give offenders the ability to seek a review of their indefinite notification requirements only once they have completed a fixed period of time subject to those requirements (typically 15 years from the time of first notification following release from custody for adults, and eight years for juveniles). The review will be carried out by the police and will take into account a range of factors, including any information provided from agencies which operate within the multi-agency public protection arrangements framework. This will ensure that there is an individual assessment of risk before any offender is considered for removal from the notification requirements. A route of appeal to a magistrates court has also been included. We are clear that we have developed a process that is robust, workable and makes public protection a central factor, while at the same time preventing sex offenders being able to waste taxpayers’ money by repeatedly challenging our laws. Sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register and will do so for life if necessary.

The final impact assessments for these proposals can also be found on the Home Office website.