What is a sexual harm prevention order?

A sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) is a measure given by the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court to a person who poses a risk of sexual harm to the public or an individual person. They can be made in relation to a person who has been convicted or cautioned for an offence listed in either Schedule 3 (including rape, sexual assault of a child and incest) or Schedule 5 (including murder, manslaughter and kidnapping) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in the UK or abroad. SHPOs are imposed either when an offender is being sentenced, or following a complaint made about a person previously convicted or cautioned of a sexual offence where their behaviour suggests they may reoffend and it is necessary to prevent that.

A full risk assessment of the person in question must be carried out before a SHPO is imposed. Anyone who has been convicted or cautioned, received a reprimand, final warning or youth caution for a relevant offence can be considered if thought to be posing a threat. Those as young as 10 years old, which is the age of criminal responsibility, can be given a SHPO but where the offender is under the age of 18, an application for a SHPO should only be considered in exceptional cases. The making of a SHPO for a juvenile is extremely rare. To make a SHPO, the court must be satisfied that the offender presents a risk of sexual harm to the public and that an order is necessary to protect against this risk.

If a SHPO is made you will be prohibited from doing anything set out in the order. These requirements should only be made due to necessity of:

  • Protecting the public or any particular members of the public from sexual harm.
  • Protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or as individuals, from sexual harm outside the UK.

Prohibitions can be wide ranging and include preventing travel overseas, restrictions on undertaking certain forms of employment and limiting internet use by the offender.

How long does a sexual harm prevention order last?

A SHPO lasts for a minimum of five years and has no maximum length, except for any foreign travel restrictions stated in the order, which must be renewed after five years.

What other implications are there?

  • A SHPO is recorded on the Police National Computer and will remain there indefinitely and can be mentioned in future criminal proceedings even after the order has become spent.
  • Whilst the order is unspent if an employer, education institution or insurance provider asks, you must disclose it to them. Once the order is spent you will not have to disclose this information unless potential employment is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
  • ­If a you are not already listed, you will be added to the sex offenders register, which in turn leads to further prohibitions such as disqualification from working with children and being subject to notification requirements for the duration of the order. The notification requirements mean you must register with the police within three days of your conviction, release from prison or SHPO enforcement, and you must notify the police of a change in name, address or if you have any plans to travel outside of the UK. If you fail to comply with the notification requirements, it is an offence.

What happens if you do not comply with the sexual harm prevention order?

If you breach any regulations set out in the SHPO you will face a separate penalty and risk imprisonment. If you have been convicted of such an offence at a Magistrates’ Court you will be liable for up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine or both. If you have been convicted on indictment in a Crown Court you will be liable to up to five years’ imprisonment.

Can you appeal the sexual harm prevention order?

It is possible for you to appeal against the making of a SHPO or to apply to vary it, just as it is possible for the police to apply for the order to be varied, renewed or discharged. If you are applying to discharge your order entirely you must demonstrate a change in circumstances and it is recommended that you seek legal advice as soon as possible