Sexual offence prevention orders; what you need to know

Sexual Offence Prevention Orders (SOPOs) are a crucial legal mechanism in the United Kingdom aimed at preventing sexual offenders from engaging in further illegal activities. SOPOs are issued by the courts and place specific restrictions on individuals convicted of sexual offences. This comprehensive guide aims to inform defendants about SOPOs, their implications, and how to comply with these orders effectively.

Understanding sexual offence prevention orders (SOPOs)

A Sexual Offence Prevention Order is a court-imposed order designed to protect the public from sexual offenders who have been convicted of certain crimes. SOPOs aim to reduce the risk of reoffending and safeguard potential victims by restricting the defendant’s behaviour.

It is important that when you are caught offending in the area of sexual offences, you seek legal advice from a sexual offence solicitor because if you don’t, then this initial offence may prompt a more serious repercussion that will stay on your permanent record, impacting on your ability to seek employment.

Types of offences covered by SOPOs

SOPOs are typically issued to individuals who have been convicted of serious sexual offences, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual grooming, possession of indecent images of children, or other sexual-related offences. The order may be applied to both adults and juveniles.

Issuance and duration of SOPOs

A court may issue a SOPO at the time of sentencing, or it can be imposed after the defendant’s release from custody. The duration of the order may vary, but it often remains in effect for a considerable period, and in some cases, it can be indefinite.

Restrictive conditions of SOPOs

SOPOs come with specific conditions that the defendant must adhere to. These conditions may include but are not limited to:

  1. Prohibiting contact with certain individuals, especially minors.
  2. Restricting the defendant’s access to the internet or specific websites.
  3. Banning the possession or use of electronic devices capable of accessing the internet.
  4. Requiring the defendant to attend counselling or rehabilitation programs.
  5. Preventing the defendant from residing near schools, playgrounds, or other places where children gather.
  6. Restricting the defendant’s travel or movement.

Breaching a SOPO

Failure to comply with the conditions outlined in the SOPO can have serious consequences. Breaching a SOPO is a criminal offence, and the defendant may face further prosecution, leading to additional penalties, including imprisonment.

Challenging a SOPO

If a defendant believes that the conditions of their SOPO are unjust or unnecessarily restrictive, they have the right to challenge it in court. Seeking legal representation from a qualified solicitor is crucial during this process.

Obligations of defendants under a SOPO

It is essential for defendants under a SOPO to fully understand and adhere to the imposed conditions. Compliance with the order is not only a legal obligation but also a responsibility toward public safety and rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation and support

Defendants under a SOPO should actively engage in rehabilitation and support programs designed to address the underlying issues contributing to their offending behaviour; these programs can aid in reintegrating into society and reducing the risk of reoffending.