The Court of Appeal has quashed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) that was imposed alongside an offender’s indeterminate life sentence. Our criminal defence solicitors explain why.

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The facts of the case

The offender, known simply as ‘GD’, was convicted of several serious sexual offenses against children. He was given an indeterminate life sentence with a minimum term of 12 years and six months. At the end of this period, he will be assessed by the Parole Board for release.

Alongside this sentence, the court also imposed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO). These orders aim to protect the public from sexual harm and last for five years. An SHPO will have certain conditions attached to it which vary from case to case. It could prevent or limit the offender from contacting certain people or children, prevent the use of the internet or prohibit overseas travel.

Following sentencing, an appeal was made regarding the appropriateness of the SHPO. Earlier cases have said that such orders are not appropriate where an indefinite sentence has been imposed – as it has been in GD’s case.

Why are further orders not appropriate with an indefinite sentence?

The reason that further orders are not appropriate where an indefinite sentence has been imposed is that if an offender is released, he/she will be subject to license terms anyway.

The release is not automatic following the minimum term. Instead, GD will be assessed for parole after 12 years and six months. He will only be released if the Parole Board determines that the public is not at risk. Even then, carefully considered license terms will be attached to his release. These are set at the time of his release, rather than at sentencing, which took place years earlier (meaning any conditions could be outdated).

If a license condition is breached, then the offender will be recalled to prison. If an SHPO is breached, then the offender will face further sentencing. In effect, it is the same outcome. Therefore, an SHPO does not add anything useful in this situation. Because of this, the general rule is that an indeterminate sentence does not need an SHPO unless there is some ‘very unusual feature’ that renders such an order beneficial in the circumstances.

The Court of Appeal’s decision

The Court of Appeal agreed with the defendant and quashed GD’s Sexual Harm Prevention Order, as there were no unusual features requiring a departure from the general rule.

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We deal with all aspects of criminal defence law, including representing those who have been accused of sexual offenses and taking matters to appeal. If you need a criminal defence solicitor, contact us now for a free initial inquiry.

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