I am on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR). How does this affect me?

Notification process

You will be required to report to the police, in person at a designated police station, within three days of conviction or release from custody, imprisonment or service detention, discharge from hospital or return to the UK (whichever applies).

You will need to provide the following information:

  • Name and any aliases you have been known by
  • Date and place of birth
  • National insurance number
  • Home address at the time of conviction
  • Current address
  • Any other addresses or premises where you stay regularly (i.e. at least seven nights of the year or where you stay for two or more periods which adds up to seven days)
  • If you are living with a child or staying in a household where a child lives for at least 12 hours in each day
  • Date of conviction, court and offence
  • Passport details
  • Details of bank or savings accounts to which you have access

If any of these details change, you must notify the police within three days. If none of your details change, you will still need to report to the police every 12 months. The police may require you to allow them to take your fingerprints and photograph when you report to them.

Failure to notify

You will be committing a criminal offence if you fail, without reasonable excuse, to:

  • Make an initial notification
  • Notify a change in details
  • Make an annual re-notification
  • Comply with any requirements concerned with the notification of travelling abroad
  • Knowingly provide false information in relation to the first four points above
  • Inform the police afterwards where plans are changed following notification
  • Allow the police to take photographs or fingerprints
  • As a parent or guardian under a parental direction, ensure that a young offender, subject to notification requirements, complies with those requirements

You may be arrested if you breach these requirements. Upon summary conviction (in a Magistrates’ Court), you may be liable to a term of imprisonment of up to six months, or to a fine, or both. If you are taken to the crown court, you will be liable to a term of imprisonment of up to five years.

What else will happen while I’m on the register?

Police from the Public Protection Unit (PPU) may visit you at home periodically to check that you are living there and to undertake an informal assessment. The frequency of their visits will depend on your risk level. They can come to your home at any time, so if you are out you may not see them. However, if they have a warrant, they have a right of entry and the right to search your property.

If you have a partner living with you, the police may decide to tell them about your convictions. If you are on licence or subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, you may have a condition which says you must inform the police or your probation officer of any new sexual relationships that you enter into.

How long will I be on the Sex Offenders Register?

The length of time that you are on the Sex Offenders Register, and subject to notification requirements, will depend on the sentence or order you received upon conviction:

 

Your sentenceRegistration period (18 or over upon conviction)Registration period (Under 18)
Your sentenceRegistration period (18 or over upon conviction)Registration period (Under 18)
Imprisonment for 30 months or moreIndefinitely+Indefinitely+
A hospital order subject to a restriction order (section 37/41)Indefinitely+Indefinitely+
More than 6 months but less than 30 months10 years5 years
6 months or less7 years3 ½ years
A hospital order without a restriction order (section 37)7 years3 ½ years
A conditional dischargeThe duration of the conditional dischargeThe duration of the conditional discharge
A caution2 years1 year
Any other disposal (e.g. fine or community order)5 years2 ½ years

+If you are on the register indefinitely, you can apply to the police to have this reviewed after 15 years if you were an adult upon conviction, or eight years if you were a juvenile upon conviction. However, if you are subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order you will not be eligible to apply for review.

If you are subject to an extended sentence, the original sentence plus the extended sentence is the length of sentence which determines your registration period.

I am on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely. Can I apply for a review?

If you are on the register indefinitely, you can apply to the police to have this reviewed after 15 years if you were an adult upon conviction, or eight years if you were a juvenile upon conviction. However, if you are subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, you will not be eligible to apply for review.

When making a decision about whether you should remain on the register, the police will consider:

  • The nature and seriousness of your offence
  • The length of time that has elapsed since your offence
  • Your age at the time of the offence and the age of your victim(s)
  • Whether you have complied with your notification requirements
  • Any other sexual offences you may have committed
  • Any other evidence of risk of sexual harm
  • Any assessment of risk made by any Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) agency

If the police refuse your request for removal, you can appeal to the Magistrates’ Court but you will not be entitled to legal aid for this. If your appeal fails, you will not be eligible to apply for a further review for another eight years.

Who will be told about my offence(s)? 

In general, the decision to disclose will be made on a case by case basis, either by the police (from the Public Protection Unit) or by your probation officer if you are on licence. If you are under MAPPA, any other agencies involved in the assessment of your risk may also be involved in any decision to disclose. 

Any decision to disclose will be based on a proper risk assessment, which should take into account the potential consequences of disclosure to you and your family. The reason for providing information about you to others must be based on your risk of sexual harm to the public or to particular individuals. For example, if you have a conviction for adult rape and you live in shared accommodation, the police may inform your housemates of your conviction if they feel that you present a risk.

Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (Sarah’s Law)

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme was rolled out across England and Wales in 2011. This allows anyone concerned about a child to formally ask the police if someone with access to a child has a record for child sexual offences. Criminal record checks are carried out on the applicant. Following a full risk assessment, the police will reveal details, in person, to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests. The person who is told is not allowed to tell anybody else.

Scotland runs a similar nationwide scheme called ‘Keeping children safe’ which allows parents, carers and guardians of children under 18-years-old to ask the police if someone who has contact with their child has a record for sexual offences against children, or other offences that could put that child at risk.

Currently, there is no formal scheme for this in Northern Ireland. However, information on sex offenders can be shared in a controlled way by the police, where necessary for the purposes of child protection or risk management.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law)

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme was implemented across England and Wales in March 2014. This gives members of the public a ‘right to ask’ the police where they have a concern that their partner may pose a risk to them, or where they are concerned that the partner of a member of their family or a friend may pose a risk to that individual.

If an application is made under the scheme, the police and partner agencies will carry out checks and if they show that the partner has a record of abusive offences, or there is other information to indicate that there may be a risk from the partner, the police will consider sharing this information.

This may affect you if you have been convicted of a sex offence, as offences of rape, sexual assault and sexual activity are included in the Home Office’s guidance of offences that may be disclosed to partners under this scheme.

Can I travel abroad while on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR)?

Being on the SOR does not prevent you from travelling abroad, unless you are also subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order that includes a foreign travel restriction. However, while you are on the SOR you must notify the police of any intention to travel abroad. The police will make a decision about whether they feel it is necessary to inform the country to which you intend to travel about any risks you may pose.

For further information about travelling abroad while on the SOR, please see here. If you are currently on licence for a sexual offence and wish to travel abroad, please see here.

What is a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO)?

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders replaced Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPO) and Foreign Travel Orders (FTO) in March 2015 following implementation of the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The purpose of the order is to protect the public from sexual harm by restricting your behaviour. For example, if you have been convicted of an offence of downloading indecent images of children, your access to the internet, or to devices that connect to the internet, may be restricted.

A SHPO can be given to anyone convicted of:

  • A sexual offence listed in Schedule 23 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • Certain non-sexual offences listed in Schedule 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

SHPOs may also be given to people in the community who have not necessarily been convicted of a sexual offence, but whose behaviour is deemed by the police to be particularly risky. In these cases, the police or the National Crime Agency can apply to the court to make a SHPO.

Conditions

A SHPO can place restrictions on you, including restrictions on travelling abroad (or to specific countries), but it cannot enforce that you do certain things, such as attending a sex offender programme.

A SHPO will apply for a minimum five-year period, but can also be set indefinitely. If no specific period is set, the SHPO will apply until you appeal it, until it is discharged or a new order is made. Foreign travel restrictions last for a maximum period of five years.

Challenging, varying, or discharging a SHPO

When issuing a SHPO, the following apply:

  • Restrictions placed on you must be necessary and proportionate, and relate to future risk as well as past offending
  • The conditions must be able to be complied with without unreasonable difficulty
  • The conditions should not be such that they are likely to be breached accidentally
  • Provisions should be tailored to your specific offence and circumstances. Certain blanket prohibitions, for example relating to the use and ownership of mobile phones and computers, have been held by the Court of Appeal to be disproportionate

You have the right to appeal against your SHPO, or to apply to vary your order. If you received the order upon sentencing at a Magistrates’ Court, you should make your application to the Crown Court. If you were originally sentenced at the Crown Court, you should make your application to the Court of Appeal.

There are no specific criteria that the court must consider in such applications, but recent cases suggest that if you are applying to discharge your order entirely you must be able to demonstrate a change in circumstances.

If you wish to appeal, vary or discharge your order, it is best to seek legal advice. You may be able to get legal aid, but this is likely to be very difficult.

Breach of an SHPO

If you fail to comply with any of the conditions of your SHPO, this may result in a criminal conviction carrying a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Do I need to disclose that I am subject to an SHPO?

If you have been given an SHPO as a result of accepting a police caution or upon conviction at court, this will form part of your criminal record and will be disclosed on criminal record checks. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, an SHPO becomes spent at the end of the order.

While your conviction is unspent, you must disclose it to any employer, education institution or insurance provider that asks you for a criminal record declaration. You do not need to declare it if you are not asked, unless the police or your probation officer require you to declare it.

Once your conviction is spent, you will not need to declare it when applying for insurance and you will not need to declare it when applying for most jobs and most courses, although there are some exceptions. Please see here for further details.

What is a Sexual Risk Order (SRO)?

Sexual Risk Orders replaced Risk of Sexual Harm Orders (RSHO) in March 2015 following implementation of the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. You do not need to have been cautioned or convicted of an offence to be made subject to an SRO, but you may be given one if you have committed an act of a sexual nature and the police consider that you may pose a risk of harm.

Conditions

An SRO will prevent you from doing whatever is prescribed in the order. The conditions must be necessary to protect the public in the UK – or children or vulnerable adults abroad – from harm.

You will not be placed on the Sex Offenders Register, but you will be required to notify the police of your name and address and notify them of any changes to these details.

An SRO will apply for a minimum two-year period unless the police decide to end it beforehand. If it contains a foreign travel restriction, this will apply for a maximum of five years.

Challenging, varying, or discharging an SRO

If you wish to appeal against your SRO, or apply to have the conditions varied, you can do so by applying to the relevant court:

  • When the SRO was made by the Magistrates’ Court either that court or any Magistrates’ Court for the area in which you live
  • When a Youth Court made the order either that court or any youth court for the area in which you live
  • When the Youth Court made the order but you are now aged over 18, any Magistrates’ Court for the area in which you live

Breach of an SRO

If you fail to comply with any of the conditions of your SRO, this may result in a criminal conviction carrying a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Do I need to disclose that I am subject to an SRO?

An SRO is a civil order and does not form part of your criminal record, although the police will retain details of it on the Police National Computer. As such, there are no specific legal requirements for you to disclose that you are subject to an SRO.

This information would not be disclosed on a basic or standard criminal record certificate, but may be included, at the discretion of a Chief Constable on an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, if the information is deemed to be relevant to the role for which you have applied. For further information about the disclosure of police intelligence on enhanced DBS certificates, please see here.

Do I need to disclose my offence when applying to college?

If your conviction is unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the college is asking you for a criminal record declaration, you are legally obliged to declare your conviction.

If your conviction is spent, you will not need to declare it when applying for most college courses, although there are some exceptions. For example, if you apply for a health and social care course that will require you to undertake placements, you are likely to be required to declare both spent and unspent convictions which are not eligible to be filtered from DBS certificates. Sexual offences are not eligible to be filtered.

If your conviction is spent, but you are still on the Sex Offenders Register (i.e. subject to notification requirements), you will not need to declare this when applying for most college courses. However, if the police (Public Protection Unit) feel that there are any risks to the college that will need to be managed, they may require you to disclose or they may make a decision to disclose relevant information. If you have any concerns about this, it is best to speak to your public protection officer.

For further advice about applying to college with a criminal record, please see here.

Do I need to disclose my offence when applying to university?

The UCAS application form asks all applicants to declare any unspent convictions. If your conviction is unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, you are legally obliged to declare your conviction when you make your application.

If your conviction is spent, you will not need to declare it when applying through UCAS.  However, if you apply for certain courses, (for example, a nursing degree), that will require you to complete placements, particularly in health or social care, the universities will ask you for a further declaration of both spent and unspent cautions and convictions which are not eligible to be filtered from DBS certificates. Sexual offences are not eligible to be filtered.

If your conviction is spent, but you are still on the Sex Offenders Register (i.e. subject to notification requirements), you will not need to declare this when applying to UCAS. However, if the police (Public Protection Unit) feel that there are any risks to the university that will need to be managed, they may require you to disclose or they may make a decision to disclose relevant information. If you have any concerns about this, it is best to speak to your public protection officer.

For further advice about applying to university with a criminal record, please see here.

Do I need to disclose my offence to employers? 

This will depend on:

  • Whether your offence is spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
  • The job you are applying for
  • Any restrictions that you are subject to because of your licence or a Sexual Harm Prevention Order

This chart explains in more detail whether you need to disclose your offence when applying for employment.

Employment advice for people convicted of sex offences

Many employers still have very risk-averse attitudes towards recruiting people with criminal records and these can be amplified for applicants having to declare convictions for sexual offences. If you feel that you have made multiple applications to no avail, be assured that you are not alone and also be assured that there are employers out there who do employ people with sexual offending histories. There are some things that you can do to give yourself the best chance of securing work:

  • Find out what you need to disclose

It is a common myth that people convicted of sexual offences must always disclose their offences to employers. This is simply not true. If your offence is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and you are applying for a job that is covered by the Act, you will not need to declare your conviction.

Note that the length of time you may be under notification requirements (i.e. on the Sex Offenders Register) may be longer than it takes for your offence to become spent. If your offence is spent, you do not need to declare it when applying for jobs covered by the ROA just because you are still on the Sex Offenders Register.

  • Think about when and how you make your disclosure

During the recruitment process, most employers do ask, at some point, for the disclosure of any unspent convictions (as a minimum) and so while your conviction is unspent, you need to think of the best way in which you can make this disclosure. This is something Nacro can help you with.

You need to ensure that you provide some context when making your disclosure, explaining the circumstances that led to your conviction, particularly highlighting any mitigating circumstances without letting your mitigation sound like an excuse. The most important part of your disclosure is explaining how you have addressed the circumstances that led to your offending and how things have changed.

The small declaration boxes on application forms do not usually provide the space that allows you to offer this information to the employer. Many simply ask that you provide details of the date, the offence and the sentence – most of this information is of very little use to the employer when they are trying to make a decision about your suitability for the job. There are a number of ways in which you can respond to the declaration:

  • You can simply tick ‘yes’ and then qualify it with some level of reassurance, for example ‘I have only one conviction from three years ago, but I will be happy to discuss it if selected for interview’
  • You can draft a disclosure statement which you send in a separate envelope marked ‘confidential’ and write on the form ‘please see enclosed statement’
  • You can draft a disclosure statement which you do not send in with your initial application, but on the form you can simply state ‘I have a disclosure statement which I am happy to make available to the appropriate person’

There are pros and cons of each of the above, but see which method you feel most comfortable with. Whichever option you choose it is still a good idea to prepare a written statement and take it with you to the interview. Interviews are highly pressured situations and it is extremely difficult to try to sell yourself and then have to discuss something which you do not feel so proud of. If you take a written disclosure along to the interview, you can simply say that you have prepared a written statement and that you are happy to answer any questions they might have. It also reduces the chance of any later disagreement about what was, or was not, said.

If you would like to prepare a written disclosure statement, please read our disclosure guide. If you would like an adviser to review a draft of your statement, email it to helpline@nacro.org.uk and an adviser will be in touch.

  • Focus on the positives

Remember that the employer should only be asking about your criminal record as part of assessing your suitability for the role. If you are confident that you are able to carry out the required duties and will not pose a risk in the working environment, you need to explain this to the employer.

  • Check recruitment policies

Find out what the organisation’s policy is on recruiting people who declare criminal records. If you have unspent convictions, and the organisation’s policy clearly states that it will not employ people with unspent convictions, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy by knowing this before making the application.

If you continue to experience problems, you may find it worthwhile to look at our list of employers and other organisations that provide opportunities to people with criminal records.

  • Get feedback

If you make a disclosure during recruitment and you are unsuccessful, it is easy to assume that this is because of your criminal record. It is always worth asking the employer for feedback if you are unsuccessful. It could be for an entirely different reason. The feedback may help you to do a stronger application/interview next time.

  • Check your online presence

Recruiters and employers increasingly use search engines and social media platforms to assess applicants’ suitability. While having an online presence is really important as a job-seeker, if you want to avoid getting overlooked, it’s a good idea to check that your online presence is what you would want an employer to see.

If your offence or any other related details are easily accessible online and cause you problems, please see here for advice and information.

Advice and support services

Circles UK

Circles of Support and Accountability provide social support and practical guidance to sex offenders, encouraging social reintegration into the community. There are a number of Circles around the UK. Contact Circles’ head office to find out whether there are any local to you:

Tel: 0118 950 0068

Email: info@circles-uk.org.uk

 

Lucy Faithfull Foundation

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a child protection charity which supports people who have sexually harmed, or fear they may harm, a child. They run private courses in Epsom, Surrey and provide a range of advice and publications. They also work with families that have been affected by sexual abuse including adult male and female sexual abusers, young people with inappropriate sexual behaviours, victims of abuse and other family members.

The Foundation also runs a free telephone helpline – Stop It Now – for those concerned about their sexual behaviour towards children. You can arrange an appointment to speak with a counsellor.

Confidential helpline: 0808 1000 900

Email: help@stopitnow.org.uk