Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 12:06 UK

Sex offenders win legal challenge over register

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

The Supreme Court's emblem
The ruling means the register will need amending

Two convicted sex offenders have won the right to challenge their inclusion on the UK's sex offenders register.

The UK Supreme Court ruling paves the way for other offenders to seek to have their details removed.

The two offenders are a teenager convicted of rape and a 59-year-old man guilty of indecent assault.

The teenage boy, known only as F, was jailed for 30 months in October 2005, aged 11, for raping a six-year-old boy.

The second case involved a man named Angus Aubrey Thompson who was jailed in 1996 for five years.

Offenders are placed on the register for life if they are sentenced to 30 months or more in jail. There are some 32,000 registered sex offenders in England and Wales and approximately half of them received sentences leading to lifelong monitoring.

'Unjustified'

But both the offenders said permanent inclusion on the sex offenders register with no chance of a review was a disproportionate interference in their family lives.

SEX OFFENDER MONITORING
32,336 registered offenders in England and Wales
Monitoring for life if jailed for 30 months or more
Exact nature of monitoring depends on risk the individual poses
No single database - but information shared by police forces and probation services
Similar systems operate in Scotland and Northern Ireland

In the case of F, the requirement to be monitored had prevented him from taking a family holiday abroad and also stopped him from playing rugby league.

Five supreme court justices upheld a decision by the Court of Appeal that the lack of a review was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, the strongest judgement they can give against a piece of legislation.

Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, said: "It is obvious that there must be some circumstances in which an appropriate tribunal could reliably conclude that the risk of an individual carrying out a further sexual offence can be discounted to the extent that continuance of notification requirements is unjustified."

The court did not say that the register itself was illegal, underlining the judgement of the lower courts that it was entirely lawful to monitor someone for life if they were a danger to society.

'Labelled for life'

The judgement means that an incoming government will need to look again at the law and introduce a review mechanism.

The front page to the Sexual Offences Act 2004
Legislation: Challenged in the Supreme Court

Policy officials are looking at the options but will need to wait for the return of ministers after the general election.

Mike Pemberton, solicitor for F, said his client wanted a fair chance to prove he had reformed.

"This case is important because it considers the rights of a child to mature and develop," said Mr Pemberton.

"At present, any child who commits an offence of this type is labelled for life with no consideration being given to the effect of growing older and learning important lessons from previous mistakes."

"The case does not argue that offenders should automatically be removed from the register but merely provides an opportunity for the risk they pose to be reviewed."

The judges said there was no evidence that showed it was impossible to identify which paedophiles had reformed. Other countries had introduced a method of reviewing sex offenders subject to monitoring, they said. To keep people needlessly on a register was also a waste of taxpayers' money.

The sex offenders register also applies in Scotland, but the precise position there may be affected by a related case which is still to be decided.



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