Supreme court upholds sex offenders register ruling

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The Independent Online

The Supreme Court today rejected a Home Office challenge to rulings that it breaches the human rights of rapists and paedophiles to be on the sex offenders register for life with no chance of review.

Two convicted sex offenders went to the High Court in 2008 where three judges ruled that their "indefinite" registration with no right of review was "incompatible" with their rights to privacy.

This decision, won by a teenager referred to as JF, and 52-year-old Angus Thompson, was upheld by three judges at the Court of Appeal last year.

Now five Justices of the Supreme Court, the highest in the land, have unanimously dismissed the Home Office challenge and repeated the decision that the Sexual Offences Act was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because it made no provision for individual review.

The President of the court, Lord Phillips, said: "The gravity of sex offences and the serious harm that is caused to those who suffer sexual abuse must weigh heavily in favour of a scheme designed to protect potential victims of such crimes."

Any convicted offender on the register has to notify the police of their personal details, any change of address and when they travel abroad.

Lord Phillips went on: "It is important, of course, that one should not allow revulsion to colour one's attitude to the measures necessary to curtail such criminal behaviour."

But he said any scheme which interferes with an individual's right to respect for his private and family life must be shown to be achieving its aim and not to be simply a penalty on the offender.

He said the notification requirements were justified and reasonable but if someone could demonstrate that they no longer posed any significant risk of committing a further sexual offence, there was no point in subjecting them to the interference with their rights.

It was 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 could be discounted, he said.

JF, now 18, was convicted of two offences of rape of a child under 13 and other sexual offences. He was aged 11 at the time of the assaults.

In October 2005 he was sentenced to 30 months' detention by Liverpool Crown Court and released on licence in January 2007.

Thompson, from Newcastle upon Tyne, was sentenced in November 1996 to five years' imprisonment on two counts of indecent assault on a female and other offences of actual bodily harm.

Since being released in April 2000 he has not been in any trouble and is now in poor health after a series of heart attacks.