Sex offender registration appeals introduced

Image caption The government has promised that public safety will not be weakened by the move

Sex offenders in England and Wales can now appeal against staying on the sex offenders register for life - 15 years to the day since it was introduced.

Ministers said they would make "minimum possible changes" to comply with a 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

Sex offenders will have to wait 15 years after leaving prison to appeal.

Labour has opposed the change while the NSPCC said "paedophiles who have been put on the sex offender register for life must remain there".

Those sentenced to more than 30 months for a sex-related crime - against a child or an adult - can be required to register with police for life.

The government has estimated that a maximum of 1,200 sex offenders will be eligible for a review each year.

Reviews will be considered by individual police forces.

In Scotland - where the government has already amended laws to let those convicted seek a review after 15 years on the register - final decisions are taken by the courts.

A consultation on changing the law has taken place in Northern Ireland but proposals have not yet been put forward.

'No cure'

The Supreme Court ruled that denying offenders the right of appeal was incompatible with their human rights , shortly before the 2010 general election.

The offenders who brought the challenge said that permanent inclusion on the register with no chance of a review was disproportionate.

Although the Supreme Court said an appeal should be possible, it underlined that it was entirely lawful to monitor someone for life if they are a danger to society.

The then Labour government said the ruling stated it should be "open to Parliament" to maintain the current position if it saw fit, so long as there was provision in law to review matters in future if it became appropriate to do so.

In February last year, Home Secretary Theresa May told the Commons the government was "appalled" by the Supreme Court ruling, but there was no possibility of further appeal.

NSPCC chief executive Andrew Flanagan said the charity had "sadly been told the legal ruling could not be overturned".

"There is no proven or recognised 'cure' for adult sex offenders who abuse children and they must therefore always be considered a risk," he said.

"Physical and emotional harm caused by sexual abuse can damage children's lives.

"We will monitor the appeals process closely and will raise concerns if we believe the civil liberties of convicted sex offenders are being put before the protection of children."

'Protect public'

Last year, the government outlined plans to tighten up "loopholes" in the registration system including making it compulsory for offenders to tell police if they planned to travel abroad for one day - as opposed to the current three days or more.

A Home Office spokesman said the department was doing everything it could "to protect the public from predatory sex offenders".

"The review process for offenders is robust and puts public protection first. It also prevents sex offenders from wasting taxpayers' money by repeatedly challenging our laws," he said.

"Sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register for life."

The Sex Offenders Act, which was prompted by public concern about increasing reports of paedophile activity, created the Sex Offenders Register, introduced on 1 September 1997.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites