What is a Registered Sex Offender?
A person convicted of a relevant sexual offence automatically becomes subject to the Notification Requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and becomes a Registered Sex Offender (RSO). Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 lists the relevant sexual offences.
In addition, a person convicted of an offence not listed in Schedule 3 can be made subject of the Notification Requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and become a RSO if a Sheriff or Judge considers there to have been a significant sexual aspect to the commission of the crime.
What are the notification requirements?
The notification requirements are a set of instructions that RSOs must comply with and are contained in full within the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In general terms, RSOs must comply with the following:
- Within 3 days of their conviction, an offender who becomes subject to the notification requirements must notify the police, in person and at a prescribed police station, of their name, address, date of birth, passport details, credit card, and bank details and national insurance number.
- If the offender is in prison on the day that this requirement falls due then they must make this notification within 3 days of their release.
- Such offenders must also notify any subsequent change to these details to the police within 3 days of the change taking place.
- They must also notify the police, within 3 days, if they spend 7 days or more (whether consecutively or within a twelve month period) at an address they have not already notified to the police.
- All offenders must ensure that they re-confirm the notified details listed above at least once every 12 months.
- They must also notify the police at least 7 days before departure or as soon as is reasonably practical, of any intended foreign travel.
What is the Sex Offenders Register?
The Chief Constable for the area in which a RSO lives, is responsible for ensuring their compliance with the Notification Requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) is a UK wide database used by all UK Police Forces to record the details of all RSOs, and details of their ongoing management while they remain RSOs.
ViSOR is additionally used by a number of other agencies including the National Probation Service, Criminal Justice Social Work and the Scottish Prison Service.
Essentially, ViSOR provides what is publicly referred to as the Sex Offenders Register.
What are the consequences for RSOs for failing to comply with the Notification Requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003?
Failure to comply with the Notification Requirements is a criminal offence. If convicted of such an offence, an offender is liable to a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
It is the duty of the Police to investigate any suspected breach of the Notification Requirements and report the circumstances for consideration of prosecution, in the same manner as for any other investigated crime.
Is there any such thing as a typical RSO?
In short, the answer is no. RSOs come from all walks of life and can be male or female. The sexual offences committed covers a wide range of criminal offences characterised by a sexual motive or inappropriate sexual behaviour. This can range from rape, sexual assault, sexual activity with someone under the legal age of consent, child sexual abuse, indecent exposure, possession of indecent images of children to sexually inappropriate language.
People who commit sexual offences differ in their level of impulsiveness, their sexual interests, their attitudes and beliefs about offending, their level of risk to the public, and their desire to change their behaviour.
There appears to be a common belief all sex offenders have committed sexual offences against children, or present a risk of sexual harm to children. This is simply not the case. Not all sex offenders commit sexual offences against children nor do they all present a risk of sexual harm to children.
What should I do if I have particular concerns about a RSO?
The number of RSOs in our community who pose a high risk of serious harm to others is thankfully very small. However, the thought that a person may pose a risk of serious harm to you or someone you care about could be very distressing, and it may be difficult to know who to speak to. This is particularly true where the concern relates to a child.
If any person has information to suggest a child has, is or is likely to be at risk of harm immediate contact should be made with police or social work.
The Sex Offender Community Disclosure Scheme, also known as ‘Keeping Children Safe’ is available to communities throughout Scotland. The scheme allows parents, carers or guardians with concerns about a child under the age of 18 years to make a formal request for the disclosure of information about a named person who may have contact with their child, if they are concerned that the person may be a RSO.
Information can only be provided to a parent, carer or guardian but if you have concerns about a person’s access to a child you should make the call.
While you can attend or phone your local police office to submit an application to the scheme, the easiest and quickest way to do so is via the Police Scotland website online application form.
The detail provided and potential risk will be considered, assessed and progressed by the police on a case by case basis.
The online application and further details are available via The Sex Offender Community Disclosure Scheme
Who is responsible for RSOs?
Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own behaviour. RSOs are no different.However, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland is responsible for ensuring RSOs living in Scotland, provide the required information and comply with the Notification Requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Additionally, agencies involved in Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are required to maintain effective information sharing and risk management arrangements in order to reduce any risk of harm posed to members of the public, by RSOs.
The public also have a role to play in this process by acting responsibly and reporting any concerns or issues to any of the involved agencies.