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Sexual offences

A page bringing together information, personal stories, useful links and FAQs

Sexual offences, in brief

There are many misconceptions about sexual offence convictions and how they work in terms of disclosing to employers. It’s important therefore be to clear about:

  • When your conviction becomes spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and what you’re legally required to disclose to employers, insurers etc.
  • The impact that any civil order (for example a Sexual Harm Prevention Order) will have on the rehabilitation period of your caution or conviction.
  • If you have an indefinite notification or indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) or Sexual Harm Prevention order (SHPO), it’s generally worth applying to have them amended or discharged at the appropriate time.
  • Wherever possible, try to develop a good working relationship with your probation officer or supervising police officer. They are likely to be less intrusive or restrictive if you are open and upfront with them.

What is the definition of a sexual offence?

One of the biggest misconceptions relates to the definition of a sexual offence. Sexual offences cover a wide range of illegal behaviour, including rape and sexual assault, child sexual abuse, prostitution and some forms of pornography:

  • Sexual assault involves touching a person sexually without their consent, or coercing them to engage in sexual behaviour against their will.
  • Child sexual abuse involves forcing or inciting a person under the age of 18 to take part in sexual activity. This can involve physical contact, including non-penetrative acts such as kissing and touching outside of clothing. It can also involve non-contact activities, such as encouraging children to look at sexual images, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse.
  • It is an offence to take, make, possess or distribute indecent images of children. Images can include photographs or video footage, but also drawings, tracings and digitally created images.
  • It is illegal for children under the age of 18 to create or share sexual images of themselves, and for other children to have in their possession an explicit image of a child. Therefore, two 17 year olds in a relationship can be committing a crime by sharing explicit photographs of themselves with each other.
  • There are numerous offences related to prostitution. It is illegal to persistently solicit in public or offer to pay for sexual services; manage a brothel; or incite another person to become a prostitute for gain.
  • Pornographic images that are deemed to be obscene, for example due to including extreme violence, are illegal. It is an offence to disclose private sexual images of another person without their consent (so called ‘revenge porn’).

Further examples of sexual offences and how the Crown Prosecution Service deal with them can be found here.

If you've been convicted of a sexual offence

If you have been convicted of a sexual offence and are worried about how this will affect you and your family, you’ll find general information at:

Relevant orders

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence, various factors will have been taken into consideration when determining the sentence or disposal you received. It’s important to be aware however that in addition to a prison sentence or community order, the court may choose to issue you with an additional order relating specifically to sexual offences, for example a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO). These preventative orders (often referred to as a ‘relevant order’) enable the court to impose prohibitions on those convicted of an offence listed in Schedule 3 or 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

You can find further information at:

Sex offence notification requirements (Sex Offenders’ Register)

In addition to your sentence or disposal, you will usually be made subject to notification requirements: the Sex Offenders’ Register (SOR).

The time you spend on the register will be determined by the sentence or disposal you receive. If you receive a prison sentence of 30 months or more, you will be on the register indefinitely although you can ask for this to be reviewed after 15 years have elapsed.

If you have been convicted of a sexual offence overseas, you could still be made subject to the notification requirements if you return to live in England or Wales. You can find further information at:

Since 2001 people on the SOR have been subject to management through the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements, commonly referred to as ‘MAPPA’.

Children’s and adults barred list

If you have previously worked in ‘regulated activity’ and have been cautioned or convicted for a relevant offence, the DBS may consider adding you to the children and/or adult barred list. If you are on a barred list you will be breaking the law if you apply for or work in regulated activity with a group that you are barred from working or volunteering with.

The ongoing effects of a sexual offence


Being on the SOR means that you will have to notify the police of all foreign travel.

Once you have informed the police, your travel arrangements will be risk assessed and any appropriate action taken – this may include sharing the information with other agencies and countries. Where the police believe ‘a person to be a possible threat to public safety’, they may decide to issue a Green Notice through the Interpol Criminal Information System.

If a Green Notice has been issued then customs/immigration will be aware of it when your passport is scanned. Immigration will then decide whether to admit you or deny you entry.

Partners and family

Being convicted of a sexual offence can impact on other family members, especially if they work with or have children of their own.

If your partner’s occupation involves working with children and/or vulnerable adults then the police may feel it necessary to inform their employers of your convictions and it may be disclosed on their enhanced DBS certificate.

If you have children of your own then depending on the offence you were convicted of, there is a chance that there will be some involvement with children’s services, even if the offence was nothing to do with your own child.

Frequently asked questions

  • No, you can apply to the police force in your local area to vary the registration time under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order 2012. They would take a number of factors into consideration in determining a response to your request. See our sex offence notification requirements section.

  • If you’re travelling abroad, the police may put a notification ‘flag’ on your passport. This can sometimes cause problems if you are using the automated passport control gates at the airport. The gates won’t let you through and an immigration officer will come to speak to you. Some people might find this embarrassing. Therefore, whenever possible, it’s advisable to use a manned gate.

  • Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, the rehabilitation period is based on the sentence or out of court disposal handed down to you, not the offence that you have been convicted of.

  • In certain situations, it may be possible to go back to court to get it amended. More details are available here.

  • The time spent on the SOR would be determined by the custodial element of your sentence, not the suspended part. Therefore, in this case, the time spent on the SOR would be seven years.

  • If you’re subject to an extended sentence, the notification period is calculated using the whole term of the sentence. For instance, if you were sentenced to 4 months plus a four month extended supervision period, the whole term would be eight months. The notification period would be 10 years. So in this example, if the total period was over 30 months, you will be on the register for life (but can appeal to come off in the future)

  • Technically it’s not him that is doing it. One of Facebook’s terms and conditions is “You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender”.

  • Notification requirements came into force on 1 September 1997 in the Sex Offenders Act 1997. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 repealed the 1997 Act and made considerable changes to the notification requirements.

    The Sexual Offences Act 2003 also reformed and clarified the majority of sexual offences, and those offences/sentences that would mean an individual is placed on the register are listed in Schedule 3 of the Act. The notification requirements apply to anyone convicted or cautioned from 1997 onwards for a Schedule 3 offence and also includes offences committed before that date.

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