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RESEARCH INTO SEX OFFENDER ORDERS PUBLISHED

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Research into the use and perception of Sex Offender Orders by the ...
Research into the use and perception of Sex Offender Orders by the

police is published today by the Home Office.

The report 'The Police Perspective on Sex Offender Orders: A

preliminary review of policy and practice' finds that overall Sex

Offender Orders are seen positively by the police as an active and

practical response to managing the risks posed by sex offenders.

The report identifies areas of good practice and offers

recommendations on how to improve the use of Sex Offender Orders,

calling on the Government to consider both extending the jurisdiction

of Orders and introducing Interim Orders.

Speaking at the Metropolitan Police Modernising Criminal Justice

conference today, the home secretary David Blunkett said the

government was already taking action.

Home secretary David Blunkett said:

'The research makes recommendations to help the police make more

effective use of Sex Offender Orders and the government is already

taking action to put those recommendations into practice.

'Today we are tabling amendments to the Police Reform Bill to give

greater flexibility to the police throughout the United Kingdom in

how they apply for Sex Offender Orders and how they are amended and

discharged; to extend the jurisdiction of Sex Offender Orders to the

United Kingdom as a whole; and to introduce interim Sex Offender

Orders.

'We have been working with our colleagues in the devolved

administrations in order to bring about these changes at the earliest

possible opportunity.'

The research finds that take-up of Sex Offender Orders has been far

higher than initially estimated with 92 Orders having been applied

for by early 2001, double early estimates by ACPO and the Home

Office. Since the research was carried the number has risen to around

170. 38 out of 43 forces (88%) had applied for an Order and the

success rate of these applications at court was also found to be very

high (94%).

The use of Sex Offender Orders was found to vary across different

force areas with some forces more proactive than others in seeking

orders (six forces account for nearly half of all Sex Offender

Orders).

Almost half (46%) of the Sex Offender Orders identified in the study

had been breached, although the majority of breaches did not

constitute a serious offence being committed.

Sex Offender Orders are designed as a preventative measure to ensure

that substantive offences do not occur. Breaches of the requirements

of an Order alert the police that an offender is behaving in a way

that indicates he may commit a further offence, and allows them to

take action. Sentencing will vary from case to case depending on the

risk the offender poses and the nature of the breach. Serious

offences are likely to be tried separately or in conjunction with a

breach.

Of the breaches that had been tried at court, 97% resulted in a

guilty verdict. Sentencing for breaches was found to be variable,

with sentences ranging from fairly lengthy custodial sentences, to

small fines, to a sentence of binding over for five years.

Welcoming the research, Home Office minister Hilary Benn said:

'The report provides a useful insight into how Sex Offender Orders

are both used and perceived by the police. The research shows the

importance the police rightly place on the enhanced powers the Orders

give them, enabling them to intervene at a very early stage to

prevent serious crimes being committed.

'We are already taking action to address its main recommendations and

will also be discussing the research findings with all the relevant

agencies to disseminate good practice.

'Protecting the public is of the highest priority to the Government

and Sex Offender Orders are one of a number of practical measures we

have introduced to better manage sex offenders and the risk they

pose.'

Notes

1. Police Research Series report 'The police perspective on Sex

Offender Orders: A preliminary review of policy and practice' can be

found on the Home Office website .

2. The report provides an overview of the use of Sex Offender Orders

in England and Wales since they came into force on 1 December 1998 to

31 March 2001.

3. The research is based on a telephone survey of all police forces

in England and Wales and in-depth interviews conducted with key

personnel from 16 forces.

4. Sex Offender Orders were introduced under the Crime and Disorder

Act 1998 and came into force on 1 December 1998.

5. The decision to apply for a Sex Offender Order lies with the

police. An Order can be used against anyone with a previous caution

or conviction for an offence listed in Schedule 1 of the Sex

Offenders Act 1997.

6. A Sex Offender Order is a civil order that requires the civil

standard of proof, however a breach constitutes a criminal offence

and attracts a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

7. Home Office minister John Denham announced that the government

would be introducing amendments on Sex Offender Orders to the Police

Reform Bill on 7 May.

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