Will I be put on the Sex Offenders Register?
For anyone accused of a sexual offence there are worries not only about potentially having a criminal record or facing a prison sentence, but also facing a future on the Sex Offenders Register. Amy Cox offers a brief guide.
Someone who is ‘on the Sex Offenders Register’ is properly described as having notification requirements. The law concerning these requirements was introduced by the Sex Offenders Act 1997 and amended by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
There are some offences that, on conviction, result in automatic notification requirements, including rape, assault by penetration and the majority of sexual offences committed against children. There are also a number of offences that do not automatically trigger notification requirements but will do in certain circumstances. A common example I will address here is sexual assault. Notification requirements will always apply in relation to a sexual assault if the complainant is over 13, but under 18 years old. However, if the offender and complainant are aged over 18 years, the offender will only need to notify if they receive a prison sentence, or a community order, for a period of 12 months or more. If the offender is under the age of 18, and the complainant is over the age of 18, notification requirements will only apply if the offender receives a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment or more. (Please note if you are charged with a sexual assault and the complainant is under the age of 13 there are different considerations before determining if notification requirements apply.). Other common offences which do not automatically trigger notification requirements, but will do in certain circumstances, such as sexual assault, are possession of indecent images, and exposure.
The law that sets out which offences attract notification requirements is set out in s80 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Schedule 3.
The length of time the notification requirements apply for is dependent upon the sentence that you receive. If you are convicted of an offence to which the requirements apply and you receive a prison sentence of 30 months or more, the notification requirements will be indefinite. If you receive a sentence between 6 months and 30 months’ imprisonment you will be required to notify for 10 years, and if you receive a prison sentence of less than 6 months the requirements will apply for 7 years. If you receive any other sentence, for example a community order, the requirements will apply for 5 years.
Importantly you do not actually need to be convicted of an offence in order for the notification requirements to apply. If you admit one of the relevant offences at the police station and receive a police caution you will be required to notify for 2 years.
Overall there are very rare circumstances in which there is a simple answer as to whether the notification requirements will apply and therefore it is always important for your legal team to not only be fully aware of whether the offence you are accused of could lead to you being required to notify, but also the impact the sentence you receive could have on the issue.
What does it mean if I am given Notification Requirements?
The law in relation to the terms of notification requirements is set out in section 83 of the Act. The key points are that individuals are required to provide the police with the following personal details: their name, date of birth, National Insurance number, passport details, home address and the details of any other addresses at which they regularly reside. These details are to be provided to police within 3 days of an individual being convicted or cautioned, so it is very important that people act promptly.
Individuals also have to notify the police of any changes to these details within a specified period of time, for example the police are to be informed if a person stays at a different address for 7 days or more. Importantly those 7 days could be accrued in one continuous period, or in two or more periods in any 12 months, if when taken together they amount to 7 days.
It is extremely important that anyone who is given notification requirements takes some time to properly consider all the terms as they are detailed and complex.
What happens if I fail to notify?
If you are given notification requirements and you either fail initially to provide your details within 3 days, or fail to inform the police of any relevant changes to your details, you will be committing a separate offence unless you have a reasonable excuse. In addition, if you provide details that you know to be false you commit an offence. The maximum sentence is 5 years’ imprisonment.