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What you need to know about Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO)

What you need to know about Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO)

What is a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO)?

A Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) is an order imposed by a Magistrates or Crown Court on an individual who it is considered to pose a risk of sexual harm to either the general public or a certain group of people or individual person(s). SHPO's replace the previous similar order referred to as a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

When can it be imposed?

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the court may impose a SHPO in relation to 'any person who has been convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity or found to be under a disability and to have done the act charged or cautioned for an offence listed in either Schedule 3 or 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.'

A SHPO can be imposed in court at the time of conviction or imposed by a court at a later date upon an application made by the police or other agency.

Any restrictions/prohibitions in the order must be considered necessary for the purposes of either:

  1. Protecting the public or any particular member(s) of the public from sexual harm, or
  2. Protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults from sexual harm outside of the UK

When a court is considering whether or not to impose a SHPO, it will look primarily at the issue of the perceived risk which an offender poses. Key factors will include previous convictions and responses to previous court orders, the level and type of offending or conduct alleged, an individuals own views on the conduct alleged and any input from the probation service who may have undertaken a report to assist the court.

What does a SHPO mean for me?

When a SHPO order is imposed, it will often require an individual to comply with certain requirements as well as refraining from doing certain things. Some of the requirements listed in the order may be for a fixed period, and some may be for an indefinite period.

Each case is dependent on its own particular facts and circumstances and must be tailored to meet the requirements and objectives of each individual case. Any conditions/requirements must be proportionate and necessary. Conditions and/or requirements that are considered disproportionate, unnecessary, too wide in scope or generally unenforceable may be open to challenge.

The order may include only negative prohibitions, there is no power to impose positive obligations.

Notification requirements

A individual may be subject to notification requirements under a SHPO depending on whether, at the time the SHPO was imposed, the individual was subject to notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA 2003). For further guidance on this, please contact us to discuss your case.

Foreign travel prohibition

A SHPO can involve a condition not to travel abroad to any country outside the UK. When this happens, an individual will be required to surrender his or her passport.

Will a SHPO show up on the Police National Computer (PNC) and for how long?

The imposition of a SHPO will show up on a PNC check. It will remain on there indefinitely

Is a SHPO considered a conviction and how long will it be on my record?

A SHPO is considered a conviction. It will remain indefinitely.

How long can SHPOs last?

A SHPO can last either for a fixed period of 5 years or can be made 'until further order' meaning until such time that it is varied or discharged.

Do I have to declare a SHPO?

A SHPO will be considered spent at the time it comes to an end or until such time it is discharged. Until this time, the imposition and existence of a SHPO would have to be declared to any actual or potential employer. The only exception to this is working with children where such a conviction is never considered spent and so must be disclosed at any time, even beyond the length of the order. It follows that a SHPO will show up on DBS checks.

What happens if a SHPO is breached?

Breaching a SHPO without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence. Upon conviction, the courts can impose a range of sentences and can impose a prison sentence of up 5 years.

Can I appeal or vary the conditions of a SHPO?

Unless a SHPO is successfully appealed, it cannot be discharged within 5 years of it being made without the consent and agreement of both the individual under the SHPO and the police.

The imposition of a SHPO may be appealed if it is considered simply unnecessary in the circumstances, if it is considered too wide in scope, simply too onerous given the circumstances of the case, if it is considered disproportionate to the conduct alleged, or if the individual simply does not accept that any perceived risk is justified.

An application to vary the order can be made either by the individual under the SHPO or by the police. There are many reasons why an order may be varied; maybe the police feel that the order can be relaxed following a period of good behavior, maybe certain conditions are felt to be simply unnecessary by either party, or maybe the police feel that additional conditions need to be imposed.

The police may look to renew an order if it becomes close to expiring, but this should only be permitted if it is considered necessary because the individual concerned continues to pose a perceived risk.

Our team of specialist sexual offence solicitors are experts with SHPOs. If you have any questions regarding SHPOs please contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.

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