Monday, 21 February 2011

Sex Offender's Register

I appeared on Sky News last Thursday lunchtime to give my views on the House of Lords decision which stated that sex offenders should be allowed to appeal the decision of a court to put them on the Sex Offender's Register for life. I was put up ostensibly against a Family Lawyer in London, with whom, in reality, I did not have an issue. It appeared however as though we were opposed.

There was in sufficient time to explain the situation in detail, as there often isn't on a short news item.

The law relating to the sex offender's register was first enacted by a Labour Government in 1997. This set up the Register per se, and restricted the movement of any sex offender who wanted to move around the country. It obliged them to notify the Police. In 2003, however, the rules were further tightened, to include Foreign Travel, and other restrictions to make life a lot more difficult. These restrictions only apply to sex offenders who are given a sentence of more than 30 months, so as to catch only the serious offenders.

The law was obviously aimed at child sex offenders who wanted to travel abroad and escape the detection of the police. What was not anticipated, when the law came in, was that it would also extend to, amongst others, children who commit offences at a very young age.

Two individuals went to the High Court and argued that the rules were "not proportionate" for their particular offence, and in breach of their Human Rights. They wanted the right to appeal the original Court decision if circumstances changed.

If one reads the judgement of the Court of Appeal, it details imaginary situations, and the way in which the rules can severely restrict a particular type of offender. I think the House of Lords had in mind rehabilitation, and the way in which liberty can be restricted. They did not have in mind serious sex offenders going before the Court so that they could be taken off the Register all together.

The Lords were alarmed at a law which puts the offender on a register for life with no right of appeal.

If one reads the judgement in detail, then the argument appears more reasonable than was reported in rather an emotive way in the press.

This is a good example of histeria taking over in a highly emotive area of law. It developed into David Cameron criticising a decision of the House of Lords in Parliament in a wholly inappropriate way. Separation of Powers is essential if society is to remain balanced. To use this as an argument in favour of bringing in a Bill of Rights is an over reaction to a simple point.

The Government clearly wants to be in control of everything, including the judges. They do not like court judgments which they think are wrong, the justification for which is Human Rights. Rights seem to be justifiable when the individual exercising them is a deserving member of society, but not when they are an offender.

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