Oral statement to Parliament

The sex offenders register: statement by Theresa May

Statement on the sex offenders register made by Theresa May 16 February 2011.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

‘The sex offenders’ register has existed since 1997. Since that time it has helped the police to protect the public from these most horrific of crimes.

Requiring serious sexual offenders to sign the register for life - as they do now - has broad support from across this House.

However, the Supreme Court ruled last April that not granting sex offenders the opportunity to seek a review is a breach of their human rights - in particular, the right to a private or family life.  These are rights, of course, that these offenders have taken away from their victims in the cruellest and most degrading manner possible.

The government is disappointed and appalled by this ruling - it places the rights of sex offenders above the right of the public to be protected from the risk of re-offending - but there is no possibility of further appeal.

This government is determined to do everything we can to protect the public from predatory sexual offenders. And so we will make the minimum possible changes to the law in order to comply with this ruling.

I want to make clear that the Court’s ruling does not mean that paedophiles and rapists will automatically come off the sex offenders’ register. The Court found only that they must be given the right to to seek a review.

The Scottish government has already implemented a scheme to give offenders an automatic right of appeal for removal from the register after 15 years. We will implement a much tougher scheme.

Offenders can only apply for consideration of removal after waiting 15 years following release from custody - in England and Wales there will be no automatic appeals.

We will deliberately set the bar for those reviews as high as possible. Public protection must come first.

A robust review, led by the police and involving all relevant agencies, will be carried out so that a full picture of the risks to the public can be considered.

The final decision of whether an offender should remain on the register will be down to the police, not the courts, as in Scotland - the police are best placed to assess the risk of an offender committing another crime, and they will rightly put the public first.

There will be no right of appeal against the police’s decision to keep an offender on the register. That decision will be final.

Sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register and will do so for life, if necessary.

  • Where we are free to take further action to protect the public, we will do so. We will be shortly launching a targeted consultation aimed at closing down four existing loopholes in the sex offenders register
  • We will make it compulsory for sex offenders to report to the authorities before travelling abroad for even one day. This will prevent offenders from being free to travel for up to three days as they are under the existing scheme
  • We will force sex offenders to notify the authorities whenever they are living in a household with a child under the age of 18
  • We will require sex offenders to notify the authorities weekly as to where they can be found when they have no fixed abode
  • And we will tighten the rules so that sex offenders can no longer avoid being on the register when they change their name by deed poll

Finally, I can tell the House today that the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary will shortly announce the establishment of a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights.

It is time to assert that it is Parliament that makes our laws, not the courts; that the rights of the public come before the rights of criminals; and above all, that we have a legal framework that brings sanity to cases such as these.

I commend this statement to the House.’

Published 16 February 2011