Friday, 5 March 2010

Disclosure of information about offenders

We do not have a Megan's Law.  Nevertheless, there is an expanding Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme described on a government website here.  The scheme commenced in September 2008 in 4 Police Areas and will, from August 2010, be extended to a further 18 with a complete national "roll out" planned by March 2011.  There is also a Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection Centre.  In essence the scheme enables certain persons with concerns about an individual to have checks made on that individual.  It seems that, in the 4 pilot areas, fathers of children have been one of main users of the scheme as they seek information about their ex-partner's new boyfriend - see The Guardian 3rd March.   The government and Police have claimed that the scheme is proving to be successful - see Home Office 3rd March 2010.  Only time will tell whether a disclosure leads to some form of action by way of revenge.

Note: Sexual Offences Prevention Orders are made by the courts under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 s.104.


  1. If someone is attacked as a result of someone looking up their name on this site at which point is the government liable\guilty for violations of Article 2 of the human rights act? Does simply being on the list open up the possibility of any sex offender being attacked able to sue to government for compensation?

    There was a ruling mentioned elsewhere recently (Osman or something?) where police were found in violation of Article 2 when a witness was murdered despite no clear death threat, merely contact and abuse by the person in suspect/defendant. What implications does this have for sex offenders whose names are on the list?

    If people on this list are harassed as a result of being on this list, at what point then does being put on the list constitute a violation of Article 3? They've done their time in jail (the just punishment) and now we label them forever more? Why not simply force them to wear a distinctive yellow star on their clothes? Maybe expand that to everyone who has a criminal record, with different colours for the crimes?

    The Bulger murderers are hidden from the public for their own safety. Given the high feelings around sex offenders in general, at what point do they qualify for similar protection?

    We want to protect kids, but we also have a duty to protect offenders from vigilantes and bullies.

  2. Thanks for the comment. The "Right to Life" was recognised (not created by) Article 2. This article has been "engaged" in a considerable number of situations one of which is illustrated by the Osman case in 2000.

    Osman was a school pupil. A teacher (P-L) became obsessed with Osman. The problem was recognised by the school which took the matter to the Police but they did not take any action against P-L. Later, P-L seriously wounded Osman and killed his father. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Article 2 imposed a duty on the State to protect life but the Police had done all that could reasonably have been expected of them and there was no evidence that the Police knew or ought to have known that the lives of the Osman family were at real risk from P-L.

    In the context of Northern Ireland terrorism, the case of Re Officer L [2007] UKHL 36 is of interest. Here the House of Lords considered the Osman case. I rather think that the House of Lords took a somewhat restrictive view of what Osman requires.

    As things stand, it is not entirely clear at what point the Disclosure Scheme might trigger an Osman-type duty but it seems that the Police will need to be very careful about (a) whether they release details at all and (b) to whom they release anything. If Article 2 were to be breached then the Human Rights Act 1998 would permit an action against the authorities (e.g. an action under section 7 against the Police).

    Sex Offenders against children are viewed with particular disgust by the general public. Thus, it is a trite point that the need to protect such offenders is likely to arise sooner than perhaps it might in other cases. However, everything would depend on the situation.

    The courts can make Sex Offender Prevention Orders (SOPO). Key points are (a) the offender must have been convicted of one of a list of certain offences and (b) the making of the order must be NECESSARY to protect others from SERIOUS sexual harm from the offender. Clearly, there has to be sound reasons to come to a conclusion that an order is necessary. Provided that the courts apply those rules properly then I would have no problem with such orders even if, as you put it, the offender is somehow "labelled"

    One of the arguments put forward in favour of the Disclosure Scheme is that it could assist the Police with enforcement of SOPOs - i.e. enabling them to intervene sooner than perhaps they otherwise might.