Court orders and notices

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First published
Updated
Written by College of Policing
Managing sexual offenders and violent offenders
16 mins read

This module provides MOSOVO officers, as well as other officers and staff involved in investigating and prosecuting sexual offences, with information about the different types of court orders and notices that are available to restrict the behaviour of individuals who pose a risk of sexual harm to the public in the UK and abroad.

The section provides and overview of the orders set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA), Part 2 and those later introduced by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Schedule 5. It provides links to further guidance and advice on making an application for an order, as well as information relating to monitoring and enforcement.

Orders to prevent sexual harm

A range of orders is available to police to prevent sexual harm and safeguard potential victims. The suitability of a particular order depends on the nature of the risk posed by the individual offender and the circumstances involved. MOSOVO officers should have regard to the full statutory guidance on Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) when considering or making any application.

MOSOVO officers should carry out an assessment on a case-by-case basis in order to determine the most appropriate order to use. It is often appropriate to include the views of partner agencies in this assessment. It is always necessary to do so when the defendant is under 18 years of age.

Repealed orders

MOSOVO officers may manage individuals who are subject to a repealed order. In particular, MOSOVO officers should be aware the sexual offences prevention order (SOPO), the risk of sexual harm order (RSHO) and foreign travel order (FTO) were replaced by the Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) and Sexual Risk Order (SRO) on 8 March 2015 following amendments to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

For a summary of these changes see Protection from sexual harm and violence.

Sexual harm prevention order (SHPO)

Relevant legislation Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sections 103A to 103K).
Purpose To restrict the harmful behaviour of offenders who have been convicted of a sexual or violent or other dangerous offence listed in Schedule 3 or Schedule 5 of the 2003 Act.
Effect To prohibit the offender from doing anything described in the order. Additionally, it requires the offender to become subject to the notification requirements for the duration of the order (if they are not already subject).
Test The order is necessary for protecting the public or any particular members of the public from sexual harm from the defendant, or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from sexual harm from the defendant outside of the United Kingdom.
Duration

Five years to indefinite.

Foreign travel restrictions can last for up to five years, after which they may be renewed.

Failure to comply Breach of any prohibition of an order is a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.


Sexual risk order (SRO)

Relevant legislation  Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sections 122A to 122K).
Purpose To restrict the harmful behaviour of any individual who has not been cautioned for or convicted of an offence in Schedule 3 or Schedule 5 of the Sex Offences Act 2003, but who poses a risk of sexual harm.
Effect  To prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order. Additionally, it requires the defendant to become subject to a limited form of notification requirements for the duration of the order.
Test 

The defendant has done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which it is necessary to make such an order for the purpose of

(a) protecting the public or any particular members of the public from harm from the defendant, or

(b) protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

Duration

Two years to indefinite.

Foreign travel restrictions can last for up to five years, after which they may be renewed.

Failure to comply

Breach of any prohibition of a full or interim order is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Offenders who breach an order also become subject to a limited form of notification requirements.

Foreign travel restrictions

SHPOs and SROs may both contain foreign travel prohibitions in order to protect children or vulnerable adults abroad. Restrictions may include prohibition on travelling to a certain country or countries named or described in the order, or all countries outside the UK. Further information about foreign travel restrictions can be found at page 54 of the statutory guidance on Part 2 of the SOA.

The relevant MOSOVO staff should be aware of or attend every hearing regarding a foreign travel prohibition and should ensure that the court confirms with the offender which police station to attend to surrender their passport(s). The court should also confirm the time limit for attendance and surrender of passport(s). (Note – the definition of passport is extended in the SOA 2003 to include documents that could be used, in some or all circumstances, in place of a passport – for example an ID card). See also HMPO watch list.

Passport surrender

An offender who is the subject of a SHPO or SRO prohibiting them from travelling to all countries outside the UK is required to surrender their passport(s) at a police station specified in the order. The station reception staff at that location should be briefed accordingly. Any attempts to surrender passport(s) or other travel documents at another location will be refused and dealt with as a breach of the order.

If an offender attends a police station having been instructed to surrender their passport(s), the following procedure is suggested:

  • check the passport(s) against other available identity documents to verify their identity
  • seize the passport(s) following local procedures for seizing property
  • issue a receipt acknowledging possession of the document
  • store the passport(s) in accordance with local force procedures regarding property retention
  • confirm with the MOSOVO officer that the passport has been surrendered

Each MOSOVO unit is responsible for keeping original documents secure and ensuring sufficient audit trails exist on ViSOR. This will support proving a case in court if a foreign travel prohibition is breached.

Failure to surrender passport(s)

If the offender fails without reasonable excuse to surrender their passport(s), they are breaching their SHPO or SRO.

To effectively enforce foreign travel prohibitions, it is essential that any person who fails to surrender their passport is swiftly brought to justice and the passport(s) recovered. As such situations are rare, officers and staff should seek the advice of a supervisor on how to deal with the offender. It may be appropriate to arrest the person for the offence at this point to secure and preserve evidence, or to hold a voluntary interview under caution. If either option is not appropriate in the circumstances, officers and staff should use local tasking and coordinating procedures to ensure that action is taken at the earliest opportunity and in any case within 24 hours.

Her Majesty’s Passport Office watch list

Foreign travel restrictions can be imposed, for example, under a SHPO by virtue of the SOA 2003, section 103D.

Requests should be made electronically and authorised in the email chain. This ensures that any attempts to hide the existence of a passport or to claim it has been lost but not formally reported are identified. This also records the police interest in the subject with HMPO.

See Travelling abroad for more information on offenders who are planning to travel or are known to have travelled abroad.

Making an application for a SHPO, SRO or NO

When making an application for a SHPO, SRO or NO, MOSOVO officers are obliged to have regard to the full Home Office statutory guidance on the SOA, Part 2, in particular pages 24 to 32 cover general principles for applications for these orders. Forces may also issue their own guidance on local processes and procedures relating to the civil orders.

Consultation

As well as consulting partner agencies when making an application for an order, MOSOVO officers should ensure that they routinely consult their force legal department, and, where necessary, the CPS on matters such as the wording of unusual or complex prohibitions to ensure that any breaches are capable of being proved to the criminal standard.

Obtaining a Notification Order

Notification Orders were introduced under The Sex Offences Act 2003, s 97 .

A Notification Order (NO) places a requirement on offenders who have been convicted or cautioned of sexual offences abroad, to comply with the notification requirements under the SOA 2003, Part 2 as if they have been convicted or cautioned in the UK. A NO issued against a person will require them to become subject to the notification requirements set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 82 and become a ‘registerable sexual offender’.

NO’s are required for British born offenders who are being deported after serving a sentence abroad for a “registerable sex offence” OR for Foreign National Offenders FNOs who are arrested for other offences in your police area and an ACRO police check reveals that they have been convicted of a relevant offence abroad.

The offence abroad must be equivalent to an offence under the SOA 2003, Schedule 3.

An application for a NO can be made in the police area where the offender currently resides, or where the offender is intending to reside.

In order to obtain a NO the court must be satisfied that the following three criteria are met:

  • The offender has been convicted of a relevant offence, or been found not guilty by reason of insanity, or has been cautioned in respect of a relevant offence, namely a Schedule 3 equivalent offence, outside the UK.
  • That the conviction, finding or caution occurred on or after 1.9.97; or the conviction or finding occurred before 1.9.97 but the defendant was sentenced on or after 1.9.97 or had yet to be dealt with in respect of it; or the conviction or finding occurred before 1.9.97 but on that date the defendant was under sentence in respect of the offence.
  • The Section 82 notification period in respect of the relevant offence has not yet expired.

If the above requirements are met the Court must make a Notification Order.  There is no discretion.

Step 1 – Is the offender in your area? 

Consider whether the offender is either in your policing area or is intending to come into or reside in your area when he enters the UK?  If he is not or does not so intend to do so then we cannot make the application.

In such circumstances, contact should be made with police (PPU) in the area he is likely to go on his arrival in the UK.  Establish whether they are prepared to attend the airport (or port) and commence NO proceedings.  If they are willing to accept ownership, officers should document actions and decisions on your intelligence database.

Step 2 – Information gathering

You must be able to prove that the offender has been convicted of an offence abroad.

Officers should make initial contact with the source of that information for example, ACRO. They may already be making enquiries to obtain further information so don’t duplicate others’ efforts.  If they are not, officers should make contact with the relevant Embassy in the UK (of the country where the offence allegedly occurred).  Speak with the Interpol Liaison officer if they have one, or anyone they direct you to who deals with deportees.

You should be requesting the following.

  • Certificate of conviction – some countries will not provide these, but try to obtain any local documentation that formally cites the sexual conviction at a certain court on a certain date for the particular offender.
  • Summary of case facts.
  • Do they have information as to the intentions of the offender when he is returned to the UK?  Where do they intend to reside, have they access to funds, are family expecting them, do they require any assistance from any government agency on arrival in UK? (NI number, GP, press protection).

Step 3 – Contact the Court

If you are satisfied that you are able to fulfil the criteria for obtaining a NO, make contact with the Clerk of the appropriate court for the area in which you believe the subject may go to on his arrival in the UK (or where he is living). Establish what the court requires to arrange a notification order hearing. For example, what paperwork is required?

Step 4 – Apply for the summons

As with SHPOs SROs and VOOs you must apply for a summons. To obtain this you should have signed “information” that should contain the information listed above (the three criteria).

You should suggest to the Court that a hearing date be fixed.  This may be on the same day that the offender enters the UK or a subsequent date in the future depending on the risk of that offender.

Attend Court as arranged with the Clerk and apply for the summons.

Step 5 – serve the summons

Once you have the summons, Serve the offender with the summons and explain the role of PPU and the registration requirements.  Attempt to take a voluntary DNA sample, fingerprints and photograph.  A voluntary DNA sample would enable police to load the sample onto the National database and this would therefore become searchable.

If appropriate, escort the offender to the Court and talk them through the Court process.  Be careful about doing this however if the offender obtains legal representation.  In such circumstances, any contact with the offender should be done through his solicitors.

Step 6 – The hearing

Once the summons has been served, the offender does not have to attend the court hearing.  He should only be given the opportunity to do so.  The hearing can be heard in his/her absence and if the criteria were met (as stated above) a NO must be granted, even in his absence.

If the offender attends the hearing, he would have the opportunity to state his reasons why the three criteria have not been met in his case.

If he applies for an adjournment, be ready to apply for an Interim NO pending the outcome of the main application.

If a Solicitor or Counsel represents the offender and legal points are raised, seek an adjournment and contact Force Solicitors for representation at the earliest opportunity.

Step 7 – Making the order

In the event that the Justices are satisfied that the three criteria are made out, the completed forms for applying for the NO (or Interim NO) along with the actual NO (or INO) forms would be signed by the Justices and handed to the offender.

Step 8 – After the hearing

The offender should be provided with the list of prescribed Police Stations throughout the UK.

Make a witness statement of your actions to close future loopholes in the event that the offender claims that he was unaware of what to do, where to go etc.

Contact the PNC Bureau.  Fax a copy of the NO. They will add to the UK PNCID record. ACRO will update the record with the foreign conviction.

If the offender is not going to be under your direct management contact the relevant PPU team to ensure they are aware that an NO has been obtained and the offender has 3 days to register.

Standard of proof

For both SHPOs and SROs the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ applies. Where SHPOs are sought post-conviction this has already been proven because of the criminal trial. In instances where an application is made by the police or NCA via the magistrates’ court for a SRO, the behaviour causing concern needs to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Deciding whether or not an order is an appropriate intervention to protect the public is a separate consideration however, and is decided on the balance of probabilities.

Hearsay evidence is admissible when applying for civil orders. Proof of acts or behaviour can come from a number of sources including victims, witnesses, police officers, probation officers, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Staff should consider using expert evidence in the form of a report or statement from the expert who has had dealings with the defendant. The author of the report should be available to give evidence at the hearing.

For further information see R v McCann [2002] UKHL 39.

Disclosure in court

Civil orders may be applied for in any magistrates’ court. As the applications are usually made in open court, officers and staff should consider the possible effects of disclosure. It may be appropriate to make the application in a court outside the area where the offender resides or to make an application for the court to prohibit publication of the individual’s name and address.

Proposed prohibitions

The prohibitions must be necessary for the purpose of protecting the public or any particular members of the public from sexual harm in the case of the SHPO and harm in the case of the SRO from the defendant.

The meaning of ‘sexual harm’ is defined in the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2003 as physical or psychological harm caused by the defendant committing one or more offences listed in Schedule 3 of the SOA or by the person doing outside the UK anything which would constitute an offence listed in Schedule 3 if done in the UK.

All prohibitions should be necessary, proportionate, specific and enforceable. They should result from analysing the circumstances of the individual case and should be influenced by advice and information from partner agencies and services. Officers and staff should seek legal advice on the precise wording of particular prohibitions.

Offenders who may not yet be in a particular area

An order can be applied for in relation to an offender who may not yet be in a particular area but who is intending to go there (for example, an offender due to be released from prison). An order may prohibit the offender from doing anything specified in it.

For further information see R v Smith & Others [2011] EWCA Crim 1772. The Court of Appeal emphasised the importance of tightly drafting terms used in prohibitions and ensuring they are proportionate and not oppressive.

Monitoring and enforcement of orders

Whenever a court order or sentence for public protection is in place, police forces should work with other agencies where appropriate, to ensure that offenders understand the requirements of each order or sentence.

Once a civil order is obtained, the MOSOVO unit is responsible for updating all local and national databases (for example, PNC, and ViSOR). Systems should also be in place to ensure that police officers and staff, for example, those within neighbourhood policing teams have appropriate information. Other agencies should also be informed about civil orders and any contribution they can make in monitoring and enforcement.

Offender records and risk management plans should include details of how staff will monitor and enforce particular conditions in an order. This includes agreeing arrangements for monitoring orders with other agencies, for example, providers of approved premises.

Breaches

Although these orders are civil, breaches are criminal offences and are prosecuted by the CPS in accordance with their code, see Crown Prosecution Service (2018) The Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Transition

Transitional arrangements for the repeal of SOPO, RSHO and FTO are set out in Section 114 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. MOSOVO should, however, note that Section 114 (4) provides that ‘from the commencement day there may be no variation of an existing order or an old order that extends the period of the order or of any of its provisions’.

Please note: All SOPOs, RSHOs and FTOs converted to the new orders in March 2020. All provisions of the old orders apply as if they are provisions of a new order, therefore notification requirements are not affected.

Repealed orders

It is likely that MOSOVO officers will manage individuals who are subject to an old order, of the kind which has now been repealed and replaced in law. In particular, MOSOVO officers should be

Transitional arrangements for the repeal of the SOPO, RSHO and FTO are set out in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Section 114 . MOSOVO officers should, however, note that Section 114 (4) provides that ‘from the commencement day there may be no variation of an existing order or an old order that extends the period of the order or of any of its provisions’.

Alternative orders and disruption techniques

Depending on the circumstances of the case, MOSOVO officers may want to consider using alternative orders and notices. This subsection gives an overview of the main alternatives, although this list should not be considered exhaustive.

Child abduction warning notices (CAWN)

Purpose To disrupt the activities of an individual who repeatedly associates with a young person under the age of 16 if living at home, or under the age of 18 if living in the care of a local authority.
Effect

The notice identifies the child and confirms to the suspect that they do not have permission to associate with or to contact or communicate with the child, including online.

The CAWN makes clear that if the suspect continues to communicate with the child, they may be arrested and prosecuted under existing legislation, including child abduction legislation.

Test The CAWN is a non-statutory tool that can be served quickly to deter potential offenders, without any judicial oversight, as an early intervention.
Duration Until the child reaches 16, or 18 if living under the care of a local authority.
Failure to comply

Breach of a CAWN is not a criminal offence in itself, but to can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. 

Where prosecution is not possible, the breach of a CAWN can provide evidence to support criminal proceedings such as an application for an SRO.

Domestic violence protection notice (DVPN) and Domestic violence protection order (DVPO) – Section 24 Crime and Security Act 2010

Domestic violence protection notice (DVPN) and Domestic violence protection order (DVPO) – Section 24 Crime and Security Act 2010

Purpose To put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.
Effect To prevent the perpetrator from returning to the shared home and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.
Test

The scheme is based on a two-step process. if, on being called to a domestic violence incident, the police have reasonable grounds to believe the victim remains at risk of domestic violence, they can choose to issue an emergency non-molestation and eviction notice to the perpetrator - the domestic violence protection notice (DVPN).

Becuase the DVPN is a police-issued notice, it is effective from the time of issue, thereby giving the victim the immediate support they require. The issuing of a DVPN requires the authorisation of a police superintendent or above.

Within 48 hours of the DVPN being served on the perpetrator, an application for a domestic violence protection order may then be made by the police to the magistrates' court. Sundays and public holidays are excluded from this 48-hour time limit. The DVPN continues in effect until the court has reached a decision. If the court rules that the victim requires continued protection, then they may issue a DVPO which lasts for a minimum of 14 days to a maximum of 28 days.

Duration Up to 28 days.
Failure to comply

A perpetrator who fails to comply with a DVPN can be arrested by the police and then brought before the magistrates' court within 24 hours. The court then hears the application for the DVPO, or adjourns the case to a letter date. The perpetrator could be remanded on bail or in custody until the final hearing of the application. The court takes into account the circumstances of the alleged breach of the DVPN in deciding whether to remand in custody, and what conditions to place on a remand on bail.

Breach of a DVPO is dealt with under the provisions of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980, which applies to breach of any order of the court. The perpetrator could be committed to prison for up to two months or fined up to £5,000.

Detailed guidance on DVPNs and DVPOs on the gov.uk.

Violent offender order (VOO)

Relevant legislation Sections 98 to 106 of Part 7 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
Purpose To protect the public from serious violent harm from offenders.
Effect To prohibit the offender from doing anything specified in the order, Additionally, a VOO makes the offender subject to notification requirements (similar to RSOs).
Test

There are two conditions which must be met:

1. The person is a qualifying offender which means a person aged 18 or over who falls under subsection (2) or (4) of section 99 or someone who meets the criteria under section 100 of that act.

2. The person has, since the appropriate date, acted in such a way as to make it necessary to make a violent offender order for the purposeof protecting the public from the risk of serious violent crime caused by the person.

Duration Between two and five years.
Failure to comply Maximum of five years' imprisonment (section 113(6) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008).
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