Inside Time Articles

Ryan Harman, PRT's advice and information service manager, writes a regular column for the prison newspaper Inside Time, you can read his articles here.

Nov1
Retrospective application of sex offender notification requirements
01/11/2017 00:01:00 by Ryan Harman

Correspondence in the last two months of Inside Time has prompted fresh enquires about sex offender notification requirements and reminded us about the level of confusion that still exists around this subject. People often tell us of their frustration after being told different information by different advisers about whether it applies to them. Although Stevens Solicitors have already provided further explanation in October’s edition, we thought it would be worth covering this again to help anybody who is still unsure, and provide clarity about the information we give on the subject.

Sex offender notification requirements, often referred to as the sex offenders register, was introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 1997 which came into force on 1 September 1997. This legislation was later replaced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. However, Part 2 of the 2003 Act included the same rules about how the notification requirements apply for people convicted before the 1 September 1997.

The Home Office Guidance on Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 describes the legislation as ‘partially retrospective’.  This means that people who were convicted of a relevant offence before 1 September 1997 will not be subject to the requirements UNLESS, at the beginning of 1 September 1997, one of the following applies:


  • They were still serving a sentence of imprisonment for the offence.

  • They were subject to a community order for the offence.

  • They were subject to supervision following release from prison for the relevant offence.

  • They had not been dealt with in respect of the offence.

  • They were detained in a hospital after conviction for the offence.

  • They were subject to a guardianship order after conviction for the offence.

  • They would have been subject to one of the above but they were unlawfully at large, absent without leave or on bail pending an appeal.

If any of the above apply, the person would still be subject to notification requirements even if they were convicted of the offence before it came into force.

For example, if you were convicted before 1 September 1997 but were still in prison or on licence for this offence on this date, then you would be subject to notification requirements after you are released.  

If you were convicted before 1 September 1997 but not sentenced until after this date you would also be subject to notification requirements after release.

Note that offences relevant to these requirements are those listed in Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. If you are still unsure whether this applies to you, ask your offender manager or a legal adviser.

If you would like a copy of the Home Office guidance on Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 or a copy of our Information booklet for people convicted of a sexual offence, then please contact us using the information below.

You can contact the Prison Reform Trust’s advice team at FREEPOST ND6125 London EC1B 1PN. Our free information line is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 3.30-5.30. The number is 0808 802 0060 and does not need to be put on your pin. Please note, the above article focusses on prisons in England and Wales and may not apply elsewhere.