provide better information to the public on the management of sex and
violent offenders in the community, have been announced by home
secretary Jack Straw.
statutory duty on the police and probation services jointly to
establish arrangements for assessing and managing the risks posed by
all sex offenders and other dangerous offenders released into the
This will be coupled with a power for the secretary of state to issue
guidance relating to these arrangements designed to better inform the
public. That guidance will also help to ensure a consistent approach
to risk management.
A statutory duty also will be placed on the probation service to ask
victims or their families if they want to be consulted about the
release arrangements for sex and violent offenders sentenced to
twelve months or more. Where they ask for it victims or their
families will be kept informed of the offender's release arrangements
and details of any licence conditions restricting his movements.
The package also includes proposals to tighten up the operation of
the Sex Offenders' Register and for a new Sex Offender Restraining
Home secretary Jack Straw said:
'The government has a strong record of steadily improving the
protection of children and has continued to give priority to this
work through the current review of the Sex Offenders' Act set up in
'The tragedy of Sarah Payne's death touched everyone's lives. We have
I believe recognised the very strong public concern which her murder
has evoked. This has been brought home to us very strongly in the
discussions we have had with Mr and Mrs Payne about how the law could
'The intention of these measures is to provide stronger safeguards
for children and also to reassure the public about risk management of
sex offenders in the community through the provision of more
information about these arrangements.
'These proposals will be put before parliament at the earliest
opportunity and we hope they will receive cross-party support.'
The home secretary added:
'These proposals have come about after close consultation with the
police and probation services. As part of this, I have considered
very closely the question whether there could be some form of
controlled access to the Sex Offenders' Register. But in practice
controlling such access would be impossible to enforce. The arguments
against a general right of access are well rehearsed. Such an
arrangement would not in our judgement assist the protection of
children or public safety.
'Controlled disclosure is I believe the better and safer route.
Therefore I have concluded that the professional agencies - the
police and probation services - are best placed to determine the
disclosure of information on individual sex offenders.
'But I do believe that the public should have a right to know what
measures the police and probation services have in place to protect
the public. The guidance which I will issue will also include the
question of disclosure of information to groups or individuals and
will help to develop a consistent approach. The introduction of the
Criminal Records Bureau will enable better information to be
Gill Mackenzie, chair of the Association of Chief Officers of
'Putting risk panels on a statutory basis will be very important.
Our hope is that, alongside new powers over offenders, we can act on
public fears effectively when they are genuine, and allay them when
they are unfounded.
'We clearly need to improve the way we talk to communities, and
improve the channels for communities to bring their anxieties and
suspicions to the police and others. These measures - working at
several levels - will bolster the powers that we have added to child
protection work in recent years.'
Tony Butler, chief constable of Gloucestershire and spokesman for the
Association of Chief Police Officers welcoming the announcement said:
'This will allow for the development of consistent policy and
procedures across the country based on identified best practice. ACPO
is committed to working closely with the Government and other
agencies to ensure that we build on the extensive arrangements
already in place for child protection.
'This announcement creates significant opportunities to enable all
those involved in child protection to continue to be justly proud of
our stand to prevent children being abused.'
Mary Marsh, NSPCC chief executive said:
'The NSPCC welcomes government proposals announced today to close
loopholes in the Sex Offenders' Register. We also welcome the wider
use of restrictions on convicted sex offenders and the risk
management and the risk assessment process being placed on a
'The clarification of current practice on public notification of
dangerous sex offenders in the community should help restore public
confidence. The NSPCC looks forward to continuing our partnership
with the government, the police and probation and will be working
with them to produce information to parents to ensure their children
1. A summary of the proposals follows.
2. All the proposals requiring legislation will be added to the
Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill, including the amendments to
the Sex Offenders' Act. (The Bill is currently at committee stage in
the house of lords).
3. The review of the Sex Offenders' Act will continue and will
consider other aspects of the Act not covered by these proposals.
4. Part two of the Criminal Justice and Court Services (CJCS) Bill
seeks to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual
exploitation by adults, by preventing unsuitable people from working
with children. (see attached press notice for details). This builds
on earlier legislation in the education area and on the Protection of
Children Act 1999 to provide an integrated system of child
protection. The Bill will also enable Probation Services to continue
to work with dangerous offenders even after their period of
supervision/licence has ended.
5. The CJCS Bill also includes new tagging provisions. The Bill will
create a new electronically monitored exclusion order which will
require an offender to stay away from certain places at certain
times. It will also allow for the electronic monitoring of a range of
community sentences and electronic monitoring as a condition of
PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE MEASURES
New statutory duties on the police and probation services in respect
of serious sexual and violent offenders
- Creation of a duty on chief officer of police and chief officer of
probation jointly to establish arrangements for assessing and
managing the risks posed by offenders convicted of a sexual or
violent offence and such other offenders as they consider pose a risk
of harm to the public. This to be coupled with a power for the
Secretary of State to issue guidance on such things as the
establishment of risk assessment and risk management systems, the
publication of information to the public about these arrangements
- A duty on the probation service to ascertain from the victim (or
the parent or guardian of the victim or family member as appropriate)
their wish to be consulted about the release arrangements for any
offender sentenced to twelve months or more imprisonment following
conviction for a sexual or violent offence. Where the victim wishes
to be informed, a duty on the probation service to take all
reasonable steps to notify the victim of the release arrangements,
whether any conditions are attached to the licence restricting the
movements of the offender, and specifically the terms of any
conditions which relate to contact with the victim
Amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 1997 to strengthen protections
against sex offenders
- A power for the secretary of state to make regulations concerning
notification to the police and probation service by those responsible
for the detention, discharge and release, including temporary
release, of sex offenders liable to registration under the Act.
- A new power for the crown court, when sentencing or otherwise
dealing with an offender who falls within the scope of the Act, to
make an order placing restrictions on the offender to have effect on
release from custody. This could include requirements about not
approaching victims. The order would be capable of being of
indefinite duration and of being varied or discharged on application
by the offender, the police or the probation service. Breach of the
order would be a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of five
years imprisonment. The offender would remain liable for registration
for the duration of the order, even if otherwise the registration
requirement would have finished.
- Amendments to the registration provisions of the Act to require
notification of foreign travel and to increase the penalty for
failure to register to five years imprisonment. Initial registration
to take place in person within 72 hours and additional powers to be
provided to the police to photograph and fingerprint the offender on
These measures would supplement existing arrangements or plans. In
addition, the review of the Sex Offenders Act will continue and will
consider other aspects of the Act, not covered by these proposals.
LEGISLATIVE MEASURES ALREADY IN PLACE TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC FROM
- The Sex Offenders Act 1997 requires that sex offenders convicted of
an offence under Schedule 1 to the 1997 must register their name and
address with the police. This Act is currently being reviewed with a
view to more effective use of registration and inclusion of those who
commit offences overseas or travel after release from prison. As of 1
September 1999, 10,065 offenders were recorded on the Police National
Computer as having notified the police in England and Wales of their
details, in accordance with the Act. This means that 96.9% of
offenders who are required to register have done so.
- Sex Offender Orders, introduced under the Crime and Disorder Act
1998. Can apply to offenders who have at any time in the past been
convicted of, or cautioned for, a sexual offence if their behaviour
continues to pose a threat. Should the behaviour of such an offender
give cause for concern, the police may apply to the courts for a Sex
Offender Order. The courts can make this order to impose conditions
necessary to protect the community from the defendant's behaviour
eg preventing him from loitering near schools and playgrounds. The
order is a civil order, and remains in force for a minimum of five
years. Breach of the order can result in a fine or imprisonment or
- Extended sentences provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act giving
courts powers to pass 'extended sentences' on sexual and violent
offenders. This means that sex offenders may be subject to an
extended period of post-release supervision of up to 10 years in
addition to their present term of imprisonment and post-release
supervision under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1991.
Such sentences cannot however be applied retrospectively.
- Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 requires the courts to impose a
mandatory life sentence, on offenders over 18 years, if they have
committed a second serious offence whilst already convicted of
another serious offence in the United Kingdom.
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which recently received
Royal Assent, will make it easier for police to monitor the
activities of paedophiles on the internet.
OTHER MEASURES TO INCREASE PUBLIC PROTECTION FROM DANGEROUS OFFENDERS
- The Criminal Records Bureau becomes operational next year.
Organisations involved in working with children will be able to
obtain criminal record and other information about prospective
workers, whether paid or unpaid, established or volunteers. This will
include the wide range of voluntary organisations as well as
statutory and other bodies in the public and private sector. Although
It will not be possible for them to disclose information which they
receive about individuals to parents, parents should be aware of the
fact that these checks can be and are being made and of other
recruitment and vetting procedures operated by the organisations.
- Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill currently before
parliament contains a scheme designed to prevent offenders who have
committed offences of sex or violence against children from working
with them on release. This would cover work in the public, private,
voluntary or volunteering sectors, whether paid or unpaid. The ban
would be imposed for life, and breach of the ban would be a serious
- Dangerous offenders can be tagged if electronic monitoring will
enhance their supervision. The Criminal Justice and Court Services
Bill will allow tagging as a licence condition. This will include
reverse tagging which provides information on whether someone is
complying with a ban on entering a particular location.
- The government published proposals to reform the Mental Health Act
in November 1999 to ensure it reflects and underpins modern patterns
of treatment and care. Proposals in the consultation paper include
the principle that the safety of both the individual patient and the
public are of key importance in determining the question of whether
compulsory powers should be imposed
- Separate proposals on those who are dangerous and severely
personality disordered were also published. These are intended to
ensure that those who are assessed as being dangerous as a result of
a severe personality disorder will not be released until it is safe
to do so. This will include child sex offenders who are dangerous and
have a severe personality disorder. The home affairs select committee
strongly backed these proposals in their recent report. The
government is confident that new arrangements will be compatible with
obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The government is working with organisations such as the Lucy
Faithfull Foundation and the NSPCC to explore a more effective
approach to child sex abuse prevention, and consider how public
perceptions may be addressed to improve child protection. They are
also exploring the viability of community initiatives for supporting
sex offenders such as Circles of Support, a Canadian initiative that
has shown continued success in preventing sex offenders from
- The Sex Offences Review document, 'Setting the Boundaries' was
published on 26 July. It has made far-reaching recommendations to
strengthen the effectiveness and protection of the law for children,
raised important questions about the nature of the protection that
should be offered to vulnerable people, proposed codifying and
clarifying the law on consent in rape and setting the law on a fair
and non-discriminatory basis for men and women whether as victim or
CRIMINAL RECORDS BUREAU
Information from police and other sources will be more widely
available to employers, voluntary organisations and others who employ
people to work with children, and also with vulnerable adults.
The government is in the process of establishing the Criminal Records
Bureau to provide this service.
At present, police checks on employees are mainly on people working
for local authorities in jobs giving them substantial regular
unsupervised access to children. Some voluntary organisations are
able to access police checks, but most voluntary organisations and
other employers cannot.
The police have never been specifically resourced to carry out such
work. The resources for this purpose have had to be found despite
many other pressures on police time. In those circumstances where it
has been agreed that police checks should be provided, the demand for
such checks has grown substantially over the years, and some forces
have encountered difficulty in meeting the demand within agreed
The government is therefore in the process of establishing the
Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
What the CRB will offer
Any employer, voluntary organisation, etc will be able to ask a
person seeking a job or a position to apply for a certificate from
The CRB will offer three different types of certificate, according to
- a criminal conviction certificate will contain information about
any convictions that are not 'spent' under the Rehabilitation of
- a criminal record certificate will be available to people working
in areas involving regular contact with young people under the age of
18, and with the elderly, sick or handicapped people; and also to a
range of other people involved in the administration of the law (eg
police officers) or employed in other sensitive areas and
professions. The certificate will include details of convictions,
including those 'spent' under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act,
and of cautions; and
- an enhanced criminal record certificate will be available for those
applying for positions which involve regularly caring for, training,
supervising or being in sole charge of those under the age of 18, or
of vulnerable adults, as well as for certain statutory licensing
purposes (eg gaming and lotteries licences) and for those being
considered for judicial appointments. Like the criminal record
certificate, this certificate will contain information on 'spent' and
'unspent' convictions and cautions but, in addition, will include
information from local police records including relevant
In addition,in the case of applications for one of the two highest
levels of certificate (the criminal record certificate, and the
enhanced criminal record certificate) in relation to a job or
position working with children, a search will be made of other
records. These are a list kept by the department for education and
employment of people barred from teaching; and a list kept by the
department of health of people considered unsuitable to work with
children. The CRB will therefore provide a convenient 'one-stop shop'
The aim is to make the process of applying for a certificate as
straightforward as possible, and to provide a quick service for the
delivery of certificates. But great care will be taken in checking
the identity of the person applying for the certificate.
The timetable for the CRB
The bureau will be run as a partnership between the government and
the private sector. The contract was awarded to the private sector
partner last month.
The target is that the bureau should begin issuing the highest levels
of certificates around July 2001, with priority being given to those
working with children. It is intended that the bureau should be fully
operational, and issuing all three types of certificate, by around