Britain's Supreme Court has decided that placing a sex offender on the register for life, with no chance to apply for removal, breaches their human rights.
Five justices of Britain’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Home Office from a decision to prohibit sex offenders from being put on the sex offenders’ register for life without any possibility of having their names removed.
The Supreme Court upheld previous decisions by the High Court and the Court of Appeals that ruled not giving a sex offender the opportunity to have their name removed from the register at some future date breached their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
It was the second time in less than a week that a British court has ruled that the human rights of sex offenders had been breached. The earlier decision ruled that Zulfar Hussein, a Pakistani national who was convicted of sexual offences against young girls, could not be deported because it breached his family and private rights under the European Convention.
JF and Angus Thompson Launched the Action
The court application was brought by two unrelated registered sex offenders. One, known only as JF, was only 11 years old when he was convicted of sexual offences including the rape of a six-year-old boy. In October 2005, JF was sentenced to 30 months in jail and put on the registry for life. He was later released on license in January 2007.
Angus Thompson, 52, was sentenced to five years in prison in November 1996 after he was convicted of two counts of indecent assault and one of assault causing bodily harm. He was also required to be on the sex offenders’ register for the rest of his life.
Under section 82 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, any person who is convicted of a sexual offence and is sentenced to 30 months or more in jail, is required to be put on the register for life.
Registered Sex Offenders in the UK
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 governs the responsibilities of registered sex offenders. Within three days of gaining their liberty, the offenders must provide police with their personal details. These include their date of birth, address or addresses and National Insurance numbers. Offenders must update any change of address for all residences they live in for at least seven days and any other changes in their personal details.
Offenders must also report to the police personally each and every year to either report any changes or to confirm their current information. They must also advise police any time they wish to travel outside of Britain. The fact that they are leaving the country must be reported no less than 24 hours before departure. This is to give police the time to apply for an order to prohibit such travel if the police believe this is warranted in order to protect children.
Registered sex offenders who travel outside of the UK for more than three days must also provide the police with details of that travel; when and where they will enter and leave each country, when and where they will re-enter the UK and the carriers that they will be using. They must also provide details of where they will stay when outside of the country.
The courts found that being on the sex offenders’ register for life without any opportunity to apply to be removed from the registry at some later date, violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 is the right to privacy and provides that there will be no interference with a person’s private of family life by a public authority except through necessary circumstances. Although the courts found that it may be extremely difficult for a person to prove that they are no longer a danger and should be taken off the register, they must nonetheless be given the opportunity to try.
According to The Independent, there are approximately 32,000 registered sex offenders in England and Wales. About half of them have been placed on the register for life.