Press release

Tightening the law on sex offenders

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The government sets out plans to close loopholes identified with the operation of the sex offenders’ register, Home Office announced today.

Government proposals will strengthen and extend the current checks, and will make it compulsory for offenders on the sex offenders’ register to:

notify the police of all foreign travel, requiring offenders who travel abroad for fewer than three days to notify in the same way as those who travel for longer must do under the existing scheme;

  • notify the police weekly where they can be found when they have no fixed abode;
  • notify the police when they are living with a child under the age of 18;
  • notify the police of passport, bank account and credit card details, and provide identification at each notification, tightening the law so that sex offenders cannot seek to avoid being on the register when they change their name by deed poll.

The home office also published today an updated draft ‘sexual offences act (remedial) order 2012’ to ensure that strict rules are put in place for considering whether sex offenders who are placed on the register for life should ever be allowed to be removed. This follows a ruling by the supreme court in April 2010 that those on the register for life should have the right to apply for a review.

Home office minister James Brokenshire said:

‘We are doing everything we can to protect the public from predatory sex offenders by tightening the law and closing loopholes. At the same time we will continue to do the minimum necessary to abide by the supreme court ruling.

‘We will make sure we have a process that is robust, workable and puts public protection first, while at the same time preventing sex offenders being able to waste taxpayers’ money by repeatedly challenging our laws.

‘Most importantly sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register and will do so for life if necessary.’

The government has also published its response to the joint committee on human rights’ (JCHR) report, published in October 2011, on the government’s initial proposals.

The government will continue to insist that no sex offender will be able to apply for a review until 15 years after they have been released from custody (eight years for juveniles) and that the police, working with other agencies through multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA), will lead on any reviews as they are best placed to assess continuing risk. The onus will be on sex offenders to prove that they no longer pose a risk.

The government has rejected recommendations of the JCHR for the review system to be led by the courts or for an automatic right of appeal of a police decision to the crown or high court. The government has also resisted the recommendation to change how the proposals would apply to child offenders.

Instead the draft proposals will include a provision for a right to appeal against an initial police decision to the magistrates’ court but with additional safeguards built in. Offenders appealing to the magistrates’ court would be required to pay a fee of £200 to begin proceedings, and a further £500 for a contested hearing, and may be liable for the costs of the hearing should the appeal be dismissed.

Notes to editors

1. The consultation: reforming the notification requirements of registered sex offenders (Part 2 of the sexual offences act 2003): A targeted consultation,  and a summary of the responses can be found on the home office website at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/notification-sex-offenders

2. Current notification requirements came into force on 1 September 1997 in the sex offenders act 1997. The sexual offences act 2003 repealed the 1997 act and made considerable changes to the notification requirements - commonly known as the sex offenders’ register. Qualifying sex offenders are required to notify the following personal details with the police annually and whenever their details change:

  • name;
  • address;
  • date of birth;
  • national insurance number.

3. Currently a sex offender given a custodial sentence of 30 months or more is automatically placed on the sex offenders’ register for life with no possibility to be removed.

4. In December 2008, two convicted sex offenders, Thompson (an adult) and F (a child), successfully argued in the high court that the sex offender notification requirements are incompatible with article 8 (right to family life) of the European convention on human rights where they apply for life because there is no opportunity for those offenders to apply for a review of whether they should continue to be subject to the requirements. The home office appealed this decision to the court of appeal and was unsuccessful. The home office then appealed to the supreme court.

5. In April 2010 the home office lost its appeal to the supreme court in the case F & Thompson v secretary of state for the home department. The court declared that the lack of opportunity for sex offenders, whose crimes mean that they will be registered as a sex offender for life, to seek a review of this requirement was a breach of their article 8 rights.

6. The home secretary outlined the government’s plans to bring forward proposals for responding to the supreme court ruling in a statement to the house of commons on 16 February 2011.  The government announced it would use the (non-urgent) remedial order procedure contained within the human rights act 1998 to amend the relevant part of the sexual offences act 2003 and published a draft of the order for parliamentary scrutiny on 14 June 2011.

7. In October 2011 the joint committee on human rights published its report on the government’s ‘proposal for the sexual offences act 2003 (remedial) order 2011’. The home office response to the joint committee on human rights report can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/legislation/sexual-offences-remedial-order/

8. The draft ‘sexual offences act (remedial) order 2012’ can be found at:   It will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. A resolution from each house may only be obtained after the draft order has been laid for 60 days: : http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/menu/cmd2012.htm (For a PDF copy please contact the home office press office as this link will not go live immediately.)

9. For more information contact the Home Office press office on 020 7035 3535.