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Overseas convictions for sexual offences and the UK notification requirements

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence abroad then it’s important to know that you could be made subject to notification requirements in England and Wales.

The process is not always straightforward and the police will need to look at the offence that has been committed, especially where it does not exactly mirror an offence listed in UK legislation.

Before you can be made subject to notification requirements and added to the sex offenders register, the chief police officer in the area where you live (or intend to live) will need to make an application to the magistrates’ court.

The application will only be granted if the following three conditions are present:

  1. You have been convicted or cautioned abroad of a relevant** offence
  2. The conviction or caution must have occurred on or after 1 September 1997
  3. The period set out in section 82 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in respect of the relevant offence has not expired.

** Section 99 of the Sexual Offences Act defines a relevant offence as one which:

  • Constitutes an offence under the law in force in the country concerned, and
  • Would constitute an offence listed in Schedule 3 if it had occurred in any part of the UK.

Where your offence is comparable with UK legislation then the application will be difficult to challenge. However, if the offence you were convicted of does not exactly mirror domestic law then you could argue that it did not amount to a relevant offence.


British national Mr C was convicted of a sexual offence in the USA. Two years after his conviction he moved back to the UK and was visited at home by a local police officer. The officer informed him that the police were considering adding him to the sex offenders register and had made an application to the local magistrates court.

Mr C sought legal advice and was told by his solicitor that his conviction in the USA did not amount to possession of indecent images which is what the police application stated. A date was set for a hearing but on receipt of detailed representation from Mr C’s legal team, the police withdrew their application.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on sex offence notification requirements.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact theHelpline.


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

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