How do we manage dangerous people?
Cheshire Police has created three specialist Public Protection Units which cover the whole county.
Each of these specialist units is led by a Detective Inspector who co-chairs regular meetings with the relevant officer from the Probation Service. They also have specialist officers who have responsibility for the management of registered sex offenders.
Additionally these units are supported by a centrally located Strategic Public Protection and Paedophile Cyber Investigation Team. The Strategic Public Protection Team has strategic responsibility for the management of sex offenders and violent offenders across Cheshire.
The Paedophile Cyber Investigation Team is the operational arm of the unit and investigates offenders who use the internet and other forms of communication to assault, groom, share and distribute images in order to sexually abuse children.
How can dangerous people be managed?
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 amended the 2003 Act to repeal three civil orders (Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Foreign Travel Order, and Risk of Sexual Harm Order), and replace them with two new orders in England and Wales:
The new revised Civil Orders, the Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) and the Sexual Risk Order (SRO) went live on 8 March 2015. The SHPO will replace the Foreign Travel Order (FTO) and the Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO). The SRO will replace the Risk of Sexual Harm Order (RoSHO). The notification order will remain the same.
The grounds on which these orders may be made are wider than those for the existing orders, which means that they can be used to manage risk against adults as well as children. The available prohibitions are also wider so, for example, foreign travel restrictions can be imposed under either order. In addition to the police, the National Crime Agency (NCA) will also have the power to apply for the new orders.
The Sexual Harm Prevention Order
The new sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) will replace the sexual offences prevention order and foreign travel order and may be made in relation to a person who has been convicted of or cautioned for a sexual or violent offence (including equivalent offences committed overseas) and who poses a risk of sexual harm to the public.
The SHPO may be made by a court on conviction/sentence for a sexual or violent offence listed in Schedule 3 or Schedule 5 to the 2003 Act. Any sentence or age thresholds found in Schedule 3 (which apply for the purposes of the notification requirements) are disregarded for the purposes of making a SHPO or by the magistrates’ court on application by the police or NCA. A court may impose an order for the purposes of protecting the public in the UK and/or children and/or vulnerable adults abroad from sexual harm. This includes those who have received a reprimand, final warning or youth caution for a relevant offence.
An order, whether full or interim, prohibits the offender from doing anything described in it. This includes preventing travel overseas. Any prohibition must be necessary for protecting the public in the UK from sexual harm or, in relation to foreign travel, protecting children or vulnerable adults from sexual harm.
The lower age limit is 10, which is the age of criminal responsibility. Although, where the offender is under the age of 18, an application for an order should only be considered in exceptional cases.
Under Part 2 of the 2003 Act, a SHPO puts the offender on the ‘sex offender’s register’ VISOR, if they are not already. This will make the person subject to the notification requirements for registered sex offenders for the duration of the order.
A SHPO lasts for a minimum of five years and has no maximum duration, with the exception of any foreign travel restrictions which, if applicable, must be renewed after five years.
Breach of a SHPO or an interim SHPO, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence. An offender convicted of such an offence on summary conviction (in the magistrates’ court) will be liable for up to six months imprisonment or for a fine or both. An offender convicted on indictment (in the Crown Court) will be liable to a term of imprisonment of up to five years. The court cannot, by virtue of section 113(3), make an order for conditional discharge.
The person concerned is able to appeal against the making of the order, and the police or the person concerned are able to apply for the order to be varied, renewed or discharged.
An order cannot be discharged within five years of it being made without the agreement of both parties. Variation might be necessary for:
- Deletion of unnecessary conditions, for example, if an offender moves to another area
- Addition of supplementary conditions, for example, if an additional group needing protection from risk was identified, although there may be instances when a new order should be sought.
It must be necessary to impose the additional prohibition(s) for the purpose of protecting the public or any particular members of the public from sexual harm from the defendant.
The National Crime Agency may not apply for a SHPO to be varied, renewed or discharged.
It must be remembered that the only prohibitions which can be imposed by a SHPO are those which are necessary for the purpose of protecting the public from sexual harm from the offender. These can, however, be wide ranging. An order may, for example, prohibit someone from undertaking certain forms of employment such as acting as a home tutor to children. It may also prohibit the offender from engaging in particular activities on the internet.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in R v Smith and Others  EWCA Crim 1772 reinforces the need for the terms of a SHPO to be tailored to the exact requirements of the case. SHPOs may be used to limit and manage internet use by an offender, where it is considered proportionate and necessary to do so. The behaviour prohibited by the order might well be considered unproblematic if exhibited by another member of the public. It is the offender’s previous offending behaviour and subsequent demonstration that they may pose a risk of further similar behaviour, which will make them eligible for an order
The Sexual Risk Order
The sexual risk order (SRO) will replace the risk of sexual harm order and may be made in relation to a person without a conviction for a sexual or violent offence (or any offence), but who poses a risk of sexual harm to the public in the UK or children or vulnerable adults abroad.
The SRO may be made by the Magistrates’ Court on application, by the police or NCA, where an individual has done an act of a sexual nature and as a result poses a risk of harm to the public in the UK or adults or vulnerable children overseas.
"Acts of a sexual nature" are not defined in legislation, and therefore will depend to a significant degree on the individual circumstances of the behaviour and its context.
The term intentionally covers a broad range of behaviour. Such behaviour may, in other circumstances and contexts, have innocent intentions. It also covers acts that may not in themselves be sexual but which have a sexual motive and/or are intended to allow the perpetrator to move on to sexual abuse.
As an indication, it is expected that examples of such behaviour might include the following (note that this list is not exhaustive or prescriptive, and will depend on the circumstances of the individual case):
- Those specified acts that were set out for the purposes of the previous Risk of Sexual Harm Order (some of which may be criminal in their own right), which included:
- Engaging in sexual activity involving a child or in the presence of a child
- Causing or inciting a child to watch a person engaging in sexual activity or to look at a moving or still image that is sexual
- Giving a child anything that relates to sexual activity or contains a reference to such activity
- Communicating with a child, where any part of the communication is sexual
- Acts which may be suggestive of grooming (see section below), such as:
- Contacting a child via social media
- Spending time with children alone
- Acts which may be suggestive of exploitation, such as:
- Inviting young people to social gatherings that involve predominantly older men
- Providing presents, drink, and drugs to young people
- Persuading young people to do things that they are not comfortable with and which they had not expected.
- Acts which may be carried out in a gang or group of individuals of similar ages, ‘peer-on-peer’.
A SRO may prohibit the person from doing anything described in it. This includes preventing travel overseas. Any prohibition must be necessary for protecting the public in the UK from sexual harm or, in relation to foreign travel, protecting children or vulnerable adults from sexual harm.
The Sexual Risk Order does not make the individual subject to the notification requirements for registered sex offenders; however, it does require the individual to notify to the police:
- Their name
- Their home address
This information must be notified within three days of the order being made, and then annually or whenever the information changes.
A SRO lasts for a minimum of two years and has no maximum duration, with the exception of any foreign travel restrictions which, if applicable, last for a maximum of five years (but may be renewed).
As with the SHPO, breach of an order is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. The criminal standard of proof continues to apply. The person concerned is able to appeal against the making of the order, and the police or the person concerned are able to apply for the order to be varied, renewed or discharged.
A breach of SRO will make the person subject to FULL notification requirements. (ViSOR)
Notification Orders require sexual offenders who have been convicted overseas to register with police, in order to protect the public in the UK from the risks that they pose.
Foreign Travel Orders
Foreign Travel Orders prevent offenders with convictions for sexual offences against children from travelling abroad where it is necessary to do so to protect children from the risk of sexual harm.
A breach of these orders, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.
Paedophile Cyber Investigation Team
The unit was set up in the mid 1990s to deal with the widespread cases of child abuse in children’s homes in Cheshire dating back to the 1960s.
With the explosion of technology, the unit’s focus has turned to the internet and digital devices. This has its own challenges - the nature of the internet means many cases are referred to Cheshire Constabulary from other forces and vice versa. Cheshire Constabulary is now considered a national leader and at the forefront of combating this type of criminality
When a computer is seized in a child abuse investigation in Britain, all the files are checked. Any illegal images with links to the county are then investigated by Cheshire Constabulary.
Sometimes the information arrives from a global investigation, the Constabulary’s PCIT (Paedophile Cyber Investigation Team) will investigate all referrals and intelligence received and even proactively target those individuals engaged in this type of criminality in Cheshire.
If necessary, a search warrant is obtained and all the digital and analogue equipment in the suspect’s house are seized and is jointly investigated with high tech investigators who are part of this team and investigate together.
Cheshire Constabulary work with security specialists to crack passwords and encrypted files to find out those involved with producing or distributing illegal images. They also work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure those responsible are convicted.