After learning that his indefinite SOPO was extending the time he spent on the Sex Offenders Register and keeping his conviction unspent, Danny knew that the only way to improve his chances of getting back into work was to have it discharged.
Approximately eight years ago I received a six month suspended sentence for a downloading offence and, along with this came an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).
There are many reasons why people break the law and it’s only natural therefore that people deal with their convictions in different ways. For me, that meant being really clear about the ongoing impact of my conviction including having a good understanding of when I needed to disclose it, how long I needed to disclose if for and what to disclose.
From this research, I quickly learnt that due to my indefinite SOPO, my conviction would never be spent and my time on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR) would be extended. I also learnt that after 5 years I could apply to have my SOPO discharged without needing the permission of the police.
Seven years on from my conviction and I decided to speak to my PPU (Visor) officer about applying to have my SOPO discharged. Although the SOPO conditions themselves didn’t cause me any problems, the fact that my conviction remained unspent and appeared on my basic DBS certificate made finding a job that much harder.
During this conversation with my PPU officer I was really shocked at how little she knew about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, criminal record checks or SOPO’s. She didn’t seem to realise that basic DBS checks existed and was of the firm belief that a SOPO had to run for a minimum term of 10 years!
Despite pointing out to her that:
- Without the SOPO my conviction would have been spent in 2016 and wouldn’t appear on a basic DBS; or
- There was no minimum term for a SOPO.
She told me that I needed to wait a further 3 years before I applied and if I chose to apply before that, she would object.
I’d always adhered to the conditions in my SOPO and had tried to build up a mutually respectful relationship with the police. I’d been quite optimistic therefore of having my SOPO discharged, especially if I had the support of the police. Being told that they would object was a real blow.
I started doing research online and the more I read, I got the distinct impression that SOPO’s should run in line with the duration of the notification requirements. A SOPO shouldn’t be used to extend the time that somebody spent on the SOR.
I knew that I didn’t need to get permission from the police to apply to the court and I took the view that the worst that could happen was my application being refused. If that happened, I’d be in no worse position so I thought it was worth a go.
I put my letter together setting out the reasons why I felt my SOPO should be discharged. I explained how my circumstances had changed since I was first given the SOPO and how I’d had the opportunity to reflect on my previous offending behaviour. I explained that I’d always adhered to the conditions set out in both my SOPO and the SOR. I also quoted a couple of cases from 2011 which I’d come across online which I felt backed up my argument.
My case went to court very quickly and although the thought of attending the hearing was a little daunting, I didn’t have the money to spend on legal representation. Having an awareness of the cases from 2011 certainly gave me the confidence to apply to the court but it wasn’t something I necessarily needed to know. The court were more interested in me and my circumstances which I was well equipped to talk about.
The outcome – SOPO discharged with immediate effect.
Of course, I’m absolutely delighted with this result and so glad that I went through the process. I’d say to anybody that if you find yourself in a similar situation to this, don’t be afraid to go back to court. Having the support of the police will always be favourable but remember, you can apply to have a SOPO varied or discharged without it after 5 years. The advantages for me have been massive and all it cost me was my time and a stamp.
By Danny (name changed to protect identity)