What is a Sexual Risk Order?
A Sexual Risk Order is an order made by the Court which imposes restrictions on a persons’ behaviour that the Court deems necessary for the purposes of protecting the public from risk of sexual harm. An order can be made in respect of any person who the police consider poses a risk of sexual harm to the public, notwithstanding the fact that they have not been convicted of a sexual offence. Sexual Risk Orders are extremely serious and can have far-reaching and devastating consequences.
What does a Sexual Risk Order entail?
Sexual Risk Orders prohibit the subject from doing anything contained in the order, they can prohibit anything from foreign travel and internet use to preventing a person from being in the company of children. Any order imposed must:
- be prohibitive, the Court cannot impose a positive obligation on a person;
- go no further than is necessary for the purpose of protecting the public, including children and vulnerable adults outside the UK, from physical and psychological harm;
- be proportionate to the risk posed;
- be specific in time and place so that it is readily apparent what does and does not constitute a breach.
A Sexual Risk Order will last for a minimum of two years, however, they can last for an indefinite period of time. Whilst the Sexual Risk Order does not make a person subject to notification requirements for registered sex offenders, individuals are required to notify the police of their name and address within three days of the order being made or whenever that information changes.
Although the imposition of a Sexual Risk Order does not result in a criminal record or criminal conviction or caution, there is a facility on the Police National Computer which allows for it to be recorded for police information. Although a Sexual Risk Order will not appear on a standard DBS check, it may be disclosed on an enhanced DBS check. Such checks are required whenever participating in paid or voluntary activity with children or vulnerable adults.
When is a Sexual Risk Order imposed?
In order to impose a Sexual Risk Order, the Court must find that a person has:
- done an act of a sexual nature; and
- as a result of which, there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary to make an order to protect the public from harm.
It must be proved, beyond reasonable doubt that a person has done an act of a sexual nature, however, it must only be proven on the balance of probabilities (that it is more likely than not) that there is reasonable cause to believe that is necessary to make an order to protect the public from harm.
Acts of a sexual nature are not defined in the legislation and whether or not an act is considered to be of a sexual nature will depend on the individual’s circumstances, their behaviour and the context of their behaviour. Clearly acts of a sexual nature can be wide ranging, encompassing allegations of the most serious conduct and also comparatively minor allegations.
Interim Sexual Risk Order
When making an application for a Sexual Risk Order, the police can also seek an Interim Sexual Risk Order, to be in place until a decision on the final Order is made. In order to impose an Interim Sexual Risk Order the Court must find that it is ‘just’ to do so. There is no guidance regarding the circumstances when it would be considered ‘just’ to impose an Interim Sexual Risk Order. When the Court decide whether or not to impose an Interim Sexual Risk Order, they do so not having heard or tested the evidence that the police rely on in their application. Guidance therefore requires the Court to take great care when considering whether or not to impose an Interim Sexual Risk Order.
That being said, applications for a Sexual Risk Order (interim or otherwise) are heard in the Magistrates’ Court, regardless of the seriousness of the sexual offence alleged. Not used to hearing the details of serious allegations of a sexual nature, it takes experienced and confident Magistrates and robust opposition to refuse such applications from the police.
Breach of a Sexual Risk Order or Interim Sexual Risk Order
The implications of breaching a Sexual Risk Order (interim or otherwise) are extremely serious. Breach of a Sexual Risk Order, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence. If a person is convicted of such an offence in the magistrates’ court, they will be liable to a term of imprisonment of up to six months or to a fine, or both; a person convicted in the Crown Court will be liable to a term of imprisonment of up to five years.
If a person is convicted or cautioned for breach of a Sexual Risk Order or interim Sexual Risk Order that person will become subject to notification requirements. This means that they will be registered on the Sex Offender’s register and required to notify the police of, amongst other things, where they are living and when they stay away from their home for a specified number of nights. These requirements will remain in place for the duration of the Sexual Risk Order.
What to do if you find yourself the subject of an application for a Sexual Risk Order?
The team at Bindmans have significant experience guiding individuals through these distressing applications. We appreciate that further court proceedings, following an acquittal at trial or stressful police investigation can be extremely stressful and distressing. We have an excellent track record successfully opposing applications made in respect of individuals who find themselves the subject of this draconian regime.
Where a person successfully opposes an application for a Sexual Risk Order, there is scope for their legal costs to be recovered from the police force bringing the application. The team at Bindmans have experience successfully negotiating costs settlements in this regard. For more information, visit the Criminal Defence and Extradition team’s page here.