SMW successfully resists two applications for a Sexual Risk Order
Sonn Macmillan Walker represented on successive days two unconnected clients who successfully resisted police applications to make them subject to Sexual Risk Orders (“SROs”).
- The law
SROs were introduced following amendments in 2015 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the insertion of sections 122A to 122K. These civil orders last for at least 2 years and may be imposed on a person, who has not been convicted of a criminal offence, if a court is satisfied that the person has:
“done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which it is necessary to make such an order for the purpose of protecting the public or any particular members of the public from harm from the defendant, or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom”: SOA 2003, s.122A(6) [emphasis added]
The “harm” that the SRO is intended to prevent is sexual harm, namely “physical or psychological harm caused by the defendant doing an act of a sexual nature”: SOA 2003, s.122A(1). In determining whether the threshold qualifying condition is met – i.e. that the defendant has “done an act of a sexual nature” – the criminal standard of proof applies: Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v Ebanks  EWHC 2368. The court must then decide that whether, as a result of the defendant’s sexual act(s), it is necessary to make the order in order to protect against a real risk of future harm: R v Lewis  EWCA Crim 1020. If satisfied, the court will prohibit certain activities by the defendant, such as his use of the Internet or speaking with children other than in the ordinary course of daily life. The defendant will have to register with the police and breach of an SRO is a criminal offence,which can attract a sentence of imprisonment.
- Client A
A is aged 20 and has documented learning difficulties. Despite these, he was at an advanced stage of applying to join the Royal Navy when the police applied to the court for the imposition of an SRO. This application was opposed as the police had provided insufficient evidence to establish to the criminal standard that A has done acts of a sexual nature necessitating the imposition of order. In addition, we argued that the imposition of the SRO was would significantly curtail A’s liberty and career prospects and was disproportionate in all the circumstances. In rejecting the police’s application, the District Judge determined that that the court could not be satisfied that A had done acts of a sexual nature in two out of the three instances cited by the police and that a single “foolish” act in 2019 did not necessitate the imposition of the order.
- Client B
B was made subject to an SRO at the magistrates’ court. The application by the police was based on disclosures made by three of his children to social services. Our client’s wife (from whom our client is separated) did not consent to the children making statements in support of a prosecution and therefore the application by the Metropolitan Police for the SRO was based on the hearsay evidence provided by social workers. Following a two day appeal in the Crown Court, in which the social workers were cross examined as to how they had interviewed the three children and in relation to inconsistencies in their notes, the court ruled that it could not be satisfied to the criminal standard that our client had committed any of the five acts of a sexual nature, that were alleged against him. The appeal accordingly succeeded.
Client B was represented by David Sonn of Sonn Macmillan Walker, including at the appeal.