Sex offenders to get right of appeal

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Sex offenders to get right of appeal

22nd February 2011

A criminal injuries specialist has strongly condemned news that thousands of sex offenders are set to be given the right to appeal against police retaining their details for life.

Angela Dobbs, an expert in cases involving victims of sexual assault and rape, said: "The sex offenders register was brought about specifically to ensure public safety in that police would always in theory, know the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders. The government has an obligation to protect the public from these people and it is horrifying to think offenders could simply be allowed to disappear into communities without them having any knowledge of their former crimes."

The government has been forced to amend existing measures after the Home Office failed to overturn a Supreme Court ruling made last year, based on the European Convention on Human Rights, citing offender's rights to a private or family life.

Serious sex offenders in England and Wales who are put on the register for life will now be able to argue that their names and addresses should be deleted from the database if, after 15 years following their release from custody, they are deemed no longer dangerous.

The Supreme Court ruling was made after two convicted sex offenders used human rights laws to challenge the system last year, arguing that life-long registration with no right of a review was 'incompatible' with their rights to privacy and a 'disproportionate interference' in their family lives.

"It is appalling that the government is now obliged to act on a Supreme Court ruling that effectively puts the rights of sex offenders above the rights of the public to be and feel protected," said Angela, a partner at Fentons Solicitors LLP. "It is very important that people understand the court's ruling does not mean that paedophiles and rapists will automatically come off the sex offenders' register once they have completed their sentences."

The Home Office is preparing the new rules saying that they will do the 'absolute minimum possible' to comply with the 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

At present, there are an estimated 25,000 offenders on the register for life. Currently only offenders sentenced to more than 30 months in prison for sex-related crimes are automatically required to register with police for life. Their name, address, date of birth and national insurance number are recorded and they must inform police in person of any changes or if they wish to leave the country.

Under the new proposals, those on the register for life will be able to challenge the decision and apply to have their details removed from the list but only after 15 years following their release from custody. Further challenges can then be made every five years with responsibility for deciding whether an individual no longer poses a risk to the public lying with the police and not the Courts. There will be no automatic appeals and any police decisions to keep offenders on the register will be final.

"As we can never be sure their behaviour will change," said Angela. "It is obviously vital that sex offenders who continue to pose a significant risk to the public, especially those who sexually abuse children, remain on the register, if necessary, for life."

Promising to close four existing loopholes, Home Secretary Theresa May has said she wants it to be compulsory for offenders to inform police each time they wish to travel abroad even for a single day, rather then the current system in which they only have to do so if they are due to be out of the country for more than three days. They will also have to report weekly to police if they have no fixed address and to tell authorities if they are living in a house with a child. There will also be rules to ensure offenders remain on the register even if they change their name by deed poll.

Echoing the views of police and support groups for victims of crime, Angela said: "There is understandably great concern about removing any details of convicted sex offenders from a register specifically designed to contain them. More than 25% of sex offenders go on to commit further serious crimes and there is always the risk that paedophiles and other serious sex offenders can remain dangerous for life.

"The profound damage sex offenders inflict on their victims mean the government must do everything it possibly can to implement a system that is not only extremely tough on offenders but also helps to minimise the risk of those known to have histories of sex-related crimes, from re-offending. The safety of the public must always remain paramount."

How can Fentons help?
Fentons Solicitors LLP has a department dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse pursue claims for compensation.

If you would like to talk to one of our experts in confidence, then please contact us on 0161 684 6643 or 0161 238 6440.

Source - BBC