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article imageSex offender right to appeal court decision appalls UK parliament

By Gemma Fox     Feb 16, 2011 in Politics
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday he was appalled at the decision taken by the Supreme Court to allow convicted sex offenders the right to appeal against being kept on the sex offenders register for life.
Currently in England and Wales sex offenders are required to register with police and be put on what is called "the sex offenders register", although the term refers to the act of notifying the police rather than an actual register.
Registering with the police was introduced in September 1997 and since then it's estimated that between then and October 2010 48,000 people had registered with the scheme in England and Wales.
Registering requires those convicted or cautioned with a sex offence to register at their local police station within 72 hours and they must provide their name, home address, date of birth and national insurance number.
At the moment, anyone who spends 30 months or more in prison with a conviction of a sex offence remains on the register for life and cannot appeal that decision. This accounts for 24,000 of those registered.
Cameron's comment came Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions after Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies asked: Is the Prime Minister aware that my constituents are sick to the back teeth of the human rights of criminals and prisoners being put before the rights of law-abiding citizens in this country? Is it not time that we scrapped the Human Rights Act and, if necessary, withdrew from the European convention on human rights?
David Cameron got to his feet and replied: My hon. Friend speaks for many people in saying how completely offensive it is, once again, to have a ruling by a court that flies in the face of common sense. Requiring serious sexual offenders to sign the register for life, as they now do, has broad support across this House and across the country. I am appalled by the Supreme Court ruling. We will take the minimum possible approach to this ruling and use the opportunity to close some loopholes in the sex offenders register. For instance, we will make it compulsory for sex offenders to report to the authorities before any travel and will not allow them to change their name by deed poll to avoid having their name on the register. I can also tell my hon. Friend that a commission will be established imminently to look at a British Bill of Rights, because it is about time we ensured that decisions are made in this Parliament rather than in the courts.
In April 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that those placed on the register for life should have the right to appeal that decision and be removed from the register if they should win that appeal.
The ruling was brought about after two convicted sex offenders brought their case to court using Article 8 of the European of the Convention on Human Rights which states: 1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The two offenders were a man in his fifties convicted of indecent assault who spent 5 years in jail, and an unnamed teenager who, in 2005 at the age of 11, was convicted and sentenced for raping a six-year old boy.
Both now claim that their lifetime inclusion on the sex offenders register was interfering in their family life with the teenager claiming he had been stopped from going on a family holiday abroad and was not allowed to play rugby league.
In their judgement the Supreme Court said:
If someone subject to the notification requirements could demonstrate that they no longer posed any significant risk of committing further sexual offences, there was no point in subjecting them to the interference with their Article 8 rights, which would then merely impose an unnecessary and unproductive burden on the responsible authorities.
Speaking in the House of Commons shortly after PMQs, Home Secretary Theresa May, told the chamber that, although having to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, the government would make the "minimum possible changes" in doing so.
Mrs May also said loopholes in the existing registration system would be closed. This means that the government intends to make it compulsory for everyone on the register to inform the police of their intention to go abroad. Currently those on the register need only inform the police if they are leaving the country for three or more days.
In Scotland registered sex offenders can appeal 15 years after they are placed on the register and the Home Secretary said that this would also be made the case in England and Wales.
However, she also added that there would be no automatic appeals and that, unlike in Scotland where courts decide, police in England and Wales would be responsible for making the decision whether to leave an offender on the register and the decision made would be final with no right of appeal.
Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said, "The depravity and the seriousness of sex offences, and the harm and damage they do to their victims, means the systems we have in place to protect the public must be paramount."
She said that in order to win the support of Labour party MP's an appeals system "must be extremely tough".
More about Supreme court, Sex offenders register, David Cameron, Theresa May, Yvette Cooper
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