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Applying to a court to end a court order

Aim of this page

This page aims to set out the implications of being given a court order, especially if it has no end date (i.e. an indefinite order). It also looks at how you can apply to have an order varied or discharged and what you can do to improve the chances of your application being successful.

Although this page concentrates on varying and discharging Sexual Offences Prevention Orders and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders, much of the information can be applied to other types of court order.

It is part of our information on understanding your criminal record and sexual offences.

Why is this important?

Court orders can have a devastating impact on a person’s private and family life, not only because of the prohibitions that they impose but because, as long as they are in force, a person’s conviction cannot be spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.  This means that you would be required, if asked, to disclose your conviction when seeking employment or purchasing any financial products.

If you believe that the conditions on your order are too restrictive or you would like to have the end date amended, then it may be worth applying to have it varied or discharged.

What do we mean by a court order?

A court order is an official judgement or ruling issued by a court which sets out what a person can or can’t do. They are often referred to as ancillary orders and are imposed in addition to other sentences or disposals.

Some orders are aimed at redressing the harm caused, for example a compensation order, whilst others aim to prevent re-offending or repeat victimisation such as restraining orders.

In certain situations, a judge must impose an ancillary order, for example a person found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving must be disqualified. In other situations, it’s up to the judge to decide whether it’s appropriate to give an ancillary order, taking into account the circumstances and seriousness of the offence. In these cases, the prosecution will ask the judge to make an order.

There are a number of different ancillary orders including:

  • Criminal Behaviour Orders
  • Compensation Orders
  • Confiscation Orders
  • Disqualification from driving
  • Football Banning Orders
  • Forfeiture Orders
  • Restraining Orders
  • Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

What are the implications of having a court order?

As far as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is concerned, an order can impact on when a conviction becomes spent. For example, a compensation order would only be regarded as spent once it’s been paid in full.

If an order is given a specific lifespan, say 2 years, it will be spent at the end of that period. However in an email to Unlock in February 2015, Disclosure Scotland confirmed that if an order has no duration or no time specified then the default rehabilitation period would be two years. If an order is indefinite (‘has no end date’) then it will remain unspent until you return to court to have it varied or discharged.

If you are given an indefinite order it will also mean that any other disposal given at the same time will never be spent.

For example: In court, Robert was convicted of stalking. He was given a fine which would usually mean that his conviction would be spent after one year. However, in addition to the fine, he was given an indefinite restraining order meaning his conviction would never be spent until such time as the order was revoked or amended.

Varying or discharging a court order

Whatever order you have been given, there will be legislation in place that allows anybody mentioned in the order (for example you, the prosecution or anybody protected by the order) to request a hearing to vary or discharge it.

The process

To apply to have an order varied or discharged you will need to:

  • Apply in writing to the court in which the order was given stating that you wish to make an application to have your order varied or discharged. Your application should explain how your circumstances have changed since the original order was made and the reason why you believe it should be varied or discharged.
  • If applicable, the court may ask for a Victim Personal Statement before the case is heard in order to get a better understanding of what has happened since the order was granted.
  • You will usually be given the opportunity to make representation at the hearing.

Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO)

It is possible to apply to have a SOPO or SHPO varied or discharged at any time. However, a court will only have the power to discharge a SOPO/SHPO totally within 5 years of it having been made with the permission of the Chief Constable/Commissioner of Police in that area. This does not however prevent the court from removing or amending the terms of the order or its duration within that period. After 5 years, the court does not need the consent of the police to discharge an order in its entirety.

If you are seeking an amendment or discharge of an order, you should try to seek the support of your nominated Public Protection Unit police officer. It may be that an amendment can be achieved by mutual consent and negotiation in advance of any court hearing.

What information will I need to include in an application?

When considering what prohibitions to include in an order, the courts should ensure that it:

  • Minimises the risk of harm to the public or to any particular members of the public
  • Is proportionate and necessary
  • Can be policed effectively

If you feel that any of the conditions imposed on your order are disproportionate, unnecessary or cannot be policed effectively, then you’ll need to explain the reasons why. For example, if you’re trying to find employment, then having a prohibition which states that you can’t access or attempt to access the internet would cause you huge problems.

In any application to vary this condition, you would need to explain the type of job that you’re looking for and provide examples of job sites that would assist you in your search for employment.

If you’re claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit, you could provide evidence of your Job Seekers Agreement and explain how difficult it is to meet the target job applications if you’re unable to use the internet.

If you’re looking to have an order discharged completely then there are several things you may wish to consider to improve your chances of success. These include:

  • Providing evidence to show that you have sought help to deal with any issues which led to your offending.
  • Explaining the positive changes you’ve made since the original order was given. This might include moving to a new area to avoid mixing with ‘the wrong crowd’, getting a job or improving your relationship with friends or family members.
  • If you want to have a SOPO/SHPO discharged then you’ll need to show that you have fully co-operated with the terms of the Sex Offenders Register and the requirements of your SOPO/SHPO.
  • If the police regularly inspect your electronic devices ask your supervising officer if he can provide you with the ‘clean bill of health’ given by the police after any unannounced inspection visits.

Will I need to use a solicitor?

Not necessarily. Varying or discharging a court order is achieved through a court acting in a civil capacity rather than as a criminal court. Therefore, representing yourself is a realistic possibility and court staff should be able to advise you on the correct process.

In some cases, solicitors will be able to represent you using the same legal aid certificate which related to the original court hearing.

Details of organisations that provide legal advice can be found here.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Ministry of Justice – Government department who have responsibility for the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

For information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on our sections on sexual offences and understanding your criminal record
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum



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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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