Sex offenders win human rights claim

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The Independent Online

Two convicted sex offenders today won groundbreaking rulings that their "indefinite" registration on the sex offenders register with no right of review is "incompatible" with their human rights.

The test cases of teenager "F", who cannot be identified, and an adult, Angus Thompson, came before three judges at the High Court in London.

Lord Justice Latham, Mr Justice Underhill and Mr Justice Flaux held the current registration scheme wrongly denied them the chance to prove in a review that they no longer posed a risk of reoffending.

The judges ruled both applicants were entitled to declarations that the scheme was incompatible with their Article 8 right to private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Justice Latham said it might well be that any right of review "should be tightly subscribed in the public interest".

He warned that an offender might find it very difficult to establish that he no longer presented any risk of re-offending.

"But I find it difficult to see how it could be justifiable in Article 8 terms to deny a person who believes himself to be in that position an opportunity to seek to establish it."

Lawyers for both applicants had argued they should be entitled to attempt to come off the register and stop having to notify the police of their personal details, including whether they intended to travel abroad.

F, now 16, was convicted of two offences of rape and other serious offences at the age of 11. He was sentenced to 30 months' detention by Liverpool Crown Court in October 2005 and was released on licence in January 2007.

The judges heard that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 provided that a person sentenced to 30 months or more "shall be subjected for life" to the register's notification requirements.

When it came to young offenders, the law required that periods of detention had to be treated the same as periods of imprisonment for adults.

Last year, F's family booked a holiday in Spain, but he was unable to travel as approval had not been given, the High Court was told.

Later, his local youth offending team wrote to his mother making it clear that, as he was on the sex offenders register, he would need to notify the authorities of his travel plans "for the remainder of his life".

Hugh Southey, appearing for F, pointed out that - because there was no review process - he could still be on the register "aged 70 or 80", even if he committed no further offence.

The impact of the notification regulations on young children, who were in the process of change and development, could be "significant and dispiriting".

He said: "Children have to have the chance to mature and change.

"It is important that the state does what it can to encourage the development of children who have committed serious offences in a positive way, rather than a negative way."

Pete Weatherby, appearing on behalf of Thompson, argued that adults were also entitled to periodic reviews.

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 assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The court heard he had since been released and he had not been in any more trouble.

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