Monday, December 22, 2008

Boy Bids for Law Change Boy Bids for Law Change.

The Home Office's attempts to keep tabs on convicted sex offenders have been dealt a blow at London's High Court after a human rights challenge by an 11-year-old Wigan boy. Under current legislation, anyone convicted of a sexual offense and sentenced to more than 30 months in prison must remain on the Sex Offenders Register for life. It means they have to notify the authorities of any change of address or name, and any foreign travel they undertake.

But today Lord Justice Latham, sitting with Mr Justice Underhill and Mr Justice Flaux, said the fact there was no mechanism for reviewing such registration under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act was "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judge asked whether it was right an offender who "can clearly demonstrate that he presents no risk, or measurable risk of re-offending" should be "precluded from obtaining a review of the notification requirements?"

He said: "I find it difficult to see how it could be justifiable under the Human Rights Act to deny a person who believes himself to be in that position an opportunity to seek to establish it."

He said there will now have to be a debate about what an offender should have to prove in order to be discharged from notification requirements, and when he should be allowed to make an application to the Home Office.

The successful judicial review challenge – in which lawyers argued that the Article 8 right to privacy was being violated and lifetime registration without review was disproportionate – centred around two cases:

The boy was just 11 when he raped another youngster. He was handed a 30-month youth custody sentence at Liverpool Crown Court in October 2005 for two counts of rape and a number of other serious offenses.

The restrictions on foreign travel on the Sex Offenders Register meant the boy was unable to go on a family holiday to Spain last year and there were also concerns that the presence of his name on the Sex Offenders Register would interfere with his ambitions to be a Rugby League player.

Angus Aubrey Thompson, from Newcastle, was jailed for five years in 1996 for two indecent assaults on a girl and other offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was released on licence in 2000 and has not been in trouble since.

But he has suffered a series of heart attacks and is stricken by arthritis, and believes the stress of being indefinitely on the Sex Offenders Register and continued police involvement in his life has contributed to his ill health.

The High Court ruling that the lack of review provisions in the reporting regime for sex offenders violates the Human Rights Convention will almost certainly force a change in the law.

(Now, if only the United States Justice system can be as intelligent as is the UK London High Court)