What is the Sex Offenders’ Register in UK law?

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Nick Titchener

Managing Partner


What is the sex offenders register?

The simple answer to the question ‘what is the sex offenders’ register?’ is that there is no such thing as a ‘register’ as such.

It is more accurate to say that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced a Notification Requirement that specified that convicted of certain qualifying sexual offences were then required to provide certain key pieces of information to the police in their local area within 3 days of their conviction.

If the offender does not have a local area as such, the area is defined as the place where the court that has convicted the individual is located. So, if a person accused is homeless in London, and is convicted of a qualifying offence in Blackfriars Crown Court, they would be ordinarily be required to comply with the Notification Requirements at somewhere like Southwark police station.

What offences put you on the sex offenders register in the UK?

If you are convicted of a sexual offence in the UK, there is a strong possibility that you wi’ll be added to the Sexual Offenders Register, irrespective of whether the victim is a child or an adult. The offences, detailed in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, cover a range of acts including, but not restricted to:

  • Encouraging or facilitating sexual activity
  • Child grooming
  • Sexual acts involving minors
  • Online and social media infractions
  • Possession of indecent images
  • Rape
  • Distribution of revenge pornography
  • Sexual assault

However, for certain offences, if you are sentenced to a Community Order shorter than 12 months, registration is not mandatory.

How long do offenders stay on the sex offenders register?

The duration of your time on the Sex Offenders Register depends on the sentence or order imposed post-conviction.

For individuals aged 18 and above at the time of conviction, the following timeframes apply:

  • Caution: 2 years
  • Conditional discharge: Duration of the discharge period
  • Hospital order without restriction order: 7 years
  • Imprisonment of 6 months or less: 7 years
  • Imprisonment between 6 and 30 months: 10 years
  • Hospital order subject to a restriction order: Indefinite
  • Imprisonment exceeding 30 months: Indefinite
  • Any other disposal type (e.g., Community Order >12 months): 5 years

It must be noted that these durations and the rules are different for individuals under 18 at the time of conviction.

What personal information do I need to provide to be added to the UK Sex Offenders Register?

The key personal information that must be provided to comply with the Notification Requirement is: 

  1. Date of birth
  2. National insurance number
  3. Their name on the date of the conviction and, where there was one or more other names convicted on that date, each of those names
  4. Their home address on the date of the conviction
  5. Their name on the date on which notification is given andwhere they used one or more other names on that date, each of those names
  6. Their home address on the date on which notification is given;
  7. Their address of any other premises in the United Kingdom at which, at the time the notification is given, they regularly reside or stay
  8. Whether they have any passports and, if applicable, in relation to each passport they have, , who the issuing authority was, the passport number, the dates of issue and expiry and the name and date of birth given as being those of the passport holder.

What happens if you fail to provide your details for the UK Sex Offenders Register?

It is a further criminal offence if, having been told of the Notification Requirements, the convicted person then fails to comply with the requirement to register their details with the police within 3 days.  

It is similarly a criminal offence if any of the details provided by the person then change and police are not notified of those changes within 3 days of the change.

There are a large number of offences that trigger Notification Requirements specified by the Sexual Offences Act 2003,  including offences ranging from rape and sexual assaults to offences involving the making or possessing of indecent images of children. A full list of all the relevant offences is available but specialist legal advice is vital, as some offences only trigger the Notification Requirements if a certain sentence is imposed.

Ongoing obligations regarding Notification Requirements for the UK Sex Offenders Register

When subject to the Notification Requirements (the ‘register’) there are ongoing obligations on the person concerned. If a relevant person moves address or leaves their address for a period of 3 or more days, there are requirements that must be complied with, including notifying the relevant police area of any such change in address.

The requirements on ongoing notification extend to temporary absences from the specified address, if the absence is going to be for more than 3 days. Not less than 12 hours before leaving the specified address, the relevant person must notify the police of where they will be staying when absent, their travel arrangements and when they will be returning to their specified address.

There are further requirements to then notify the local police force where the person is staying when they arrive and there is an overarching requirement to notify the police of any changes to the notified arrangements should they be required or made.

The requirements are extensive and complex and specialist legal advice should be taken to ensure that a person required to notify and comply with the notification and registration requirements is aware of what these requirements are.

Expert and specialist advice is vital to ensure that accidental breaches do not take place. Regrettably we have been instructed in cases where the offender was never told of the notification requirements or where they were badly explained. If you find yourself subject to a case where you may become subject to notification requirements, contact us today so we can guide you through the specifics of your case and what may happen upon conviction.

If you find yourself convicted of a sexual offence in London, our team of specialist sexual offence solicitors based in our central London law office will be best placed to advise you. We also have regional legal experts based across the home counties who can provide expert legal advice and assistance.

What are registered sex offenders not allowed to do in the UK?

Individuals listed as registered sex offenders cannot alter any previously provided information without notifying the police within three days of the change. Even if there are no changes, a report must be submitted to the police every 12 months.

Additionally, registered sex offenders must give 7 days’ notice to the police before travelling abroad, providing details of their travel plans.

Specific restrictions may also apply if an individual is also subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO). These restrictions could include conditions like prohibiting international travel, requiring computer monitoring software for internet access, and restricting visits to places where children are likely to be present, such as a park.

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