HC Deb 06 January 2004 vol 416 cc326-7W
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what requirements need to be satisfied in order to issue a Risk of Sexual Harm Order. [143479]

Paul Goggins

The Risk of Sexual Harm Order (RSHO) is a new civil preventative order which is being introduced in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. RSHOs will be available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RSHO is designed to protect children aged under 16 (17 in Northern Ireland) from sexual harm by adults. We know that some abusers try to prepare children for sexual activity by exposing them to sexually explicit language or images. The RSHO is intended to help the police to prevent such behaviour.

A Chief Officer of police will be able to apply for, and a court will be able to make, a RSHO in respect of a person aged 18 or over where it appears they have, on at least two occasions either:

  1. (a)engaged in sexual activity involving a child or in the presence of a child;
  2. (b) caused or incited a child to watch a person engage in sexual activity or to look at a moving or still image that is sexual;
  3. (c)given a child anything that relates to sexual activity or contains a reference to such activity;
  4. (d) communicated with a child, where any part of the communication is sexual;
And a RSHO is necessary to protect a child (or children) from sexual harm from the defendant. An application for an order will be by complaint to a magistrates court. The behaviour on which the application for a RSHO is based need not amount, in itself, to a criminal offence and the defendant does not need to have a previous conviction for a sexual (or any other) offence.

A RSHO may prohibit the defendant from doing anything which is necessary to protect a particular child, a group of children or children in general from sexual harm. The order will last for a fixed period of at least two years, or until further notice.

Interim RSHOs will be available to allow prohibitions to be put in place prior to the main application for a RSHO being determined. RSHOs, and interim RSHOs, can be varied, renewed or discharged on further application to the magistrates court by either a chief officer of police or defendant.

The defendant may appeal to the Crown court against the making of a RSHO or interim RSHO or any order made by a court to vary, renew or discharge a RSHO or interim RSHO.

A breach, without reasonable excuse, of any prohibition contained in a RSHO or interim RSHO will be a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

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