Following recent legislative changes, courts must now apply the civil standard of proof with regard to sexual harm prevention orders (SHPOs). The courts can also impose positive obligations for the first time, requiring an individual to do things like attend a behaviour change programme.

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

If you have been accused of a sexual offence, contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We offer free police station representation and are members of the Legal Aid scheme. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What is a Sexual Harm Prevention Order?

A sexual harm prevention order is a court order imposed on an individual who is considered to pose a risk of sexual harm, either to the public or a certain person/group of people.

What’s changing?

In the past, SHPOs could only be used to impose restrictions on individuals. This includes restricting contact with a specific person or restrictions on travel.

This still holds true, but now the courts can also impose ‘positive’ obligations. In other words, the court can demand that the individual made subject to an SHPO engages in certain activities. This can include attending a behaviour change programme, alcohol or drug treatment, or a polygraph test. It is thought this will improve the rehabilitation of those who pose a risk of sexual harm.

The law has been amended so that SHPOs can be renewed and varied to include positive obligations. This includes interim SHPOs. Failing to comply with any positive obligations that have been imposed amounts to a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

The equivalent changes have also been made to sexual risk orders (SROs).

Standard of proof

There is a second significant change in that courts must now use the civil standard of proof when deciding whether to grant a sexual harm prevention order. In the past, the courts had to use the criminal standard of proof when determining whether the individual named in the application had committed an act of a sexual nature (thereby warranting an SHPO). Now, they must use the civil standard of proof, which is on the balance of probabilities.

These changes have been implemented under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which came into force on 29 November 2022.

solicitors for sexual offences

At Ashmans Solicitors, we represent those accused of sexual offences and all other forms of crime. We offer free police station representation and are members of the Legal Aid scheme. Contact our leading criminal defence lawyers now to find out how we can help you.

Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also email us on or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form and we will contact you.