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April 21, 2010

Notable UK court ruling on human rights attack on sex offender registry

Because I know almost nothing about UK law and procedure, I cannot quite tell if this new story from The Guardian is a just notable or really huge.  Still, its headline alone caught my attention: "Sex offenders win appeal against indefinite inclusion on register; Supreme court backs case of two sex offenders who claim being on register for life without review breaches their human rights." Here is more:

A supreme court ruling today has opened the way for hundreds of sex offenders to challenge whether they should remain on the sex offenders' register for life. The ruling backed a case brought by two convicted sex offenders who challenged their indefinite inclusion on the register without any right to a review, claiming it breached their human rights.

One, who was convicted of rape when he was 11 years old, argued that being on the register had prevented him taking his family on holiday or playing rugby league. The other offender, Angus Aubrey Thompson, now aged 59, was jailed for five years for indecent assault 14 years ago. Their lawyers argued they had been labelled for life without any opportunity to demonstrate they had reformed.

The current legislation says that any sex offender sentenced to a prison sentence of at least 30 months is placed on the register for life and has a duty to keep the police informed of any change of address or travel abroad.

The supreme court decision published today follows an appeal by the home secretary against an earlier appeal court ruling that the lack of any review was incompatible with the European convention on human rights, in particular the right to respect for a private and family life.

Lord Phillips, the supreme court president, said: "It is obvious that there must be some circumstances in which an appropriate tribunal could reliably conclude that the risk of an individual carrying out a further sexual offence can be discounted to the extent that continuance of notification requirements is unjustified."

The judges stressed that the ruling did not mean the sex offenders' register itself was illegal and said that it was entirely reasonable and lawful to monitor someone for life if they were assessed to be a danger to society.

But the judges rejected the home secretary's appeal, saying there was no evidence to show it was impossible to identify which sex offenders had reformed. Home Office research submitted during the case showed that 75% of sex offenders who were monitored over a 21-year period were not reconvicted of any offence.

Mike Pemberton, solicitor for F, who was convicted of the rape of a six-year-old boy when he was 11, said his client wanted a fair chance to show that he had reformed.

In addition to hoping I might be able to get a copy of or link to this opinion, I also hope informed readers might be able to use the comments to tell me whether this is huge news or not really that big a deal.

UPDATE:  A couple of helpful readers have sent me this link to the UK ruling [2010] UKSC 17, and have also confirmed my instinct that this is a big deal.

April 21, 2010 at 03:43 PM | Permalink


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nice to see at least one part of the world is moving back from the cliff the US has sent the world over.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 21, 2010 5:09:26 PM

Doug --

Oh, it's huge all right, but the following story about the EU's version of human rights is even bigger. This is not from the National Review; it's from the LA Times:

"If you're tired of your human rights being trampled on -- like not being able to take free vacations every year -- then you're in luck. At least if you're over in Europe, anyway.

"The Times of London is reporting that the European Union could declare tourism to be a basic human right, and if you can't afford to travel, then government should take care of the expense for you."

I swear I'm not making this up. Here's the link to the LAT story: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/04/no-free-vacation-this-year-your-human-rights-have-been-violated-at-least-in-europe.html.

Whew!! I'm glad the More Enlightened in the EU are looking out for us. And not just for some poor, "marginalized" defendant who rapes an eight year-old or something unpleasant like that. Not a bit. It's looking out for your average Joe who needs a couple of weeks off!

I shoud be ashamed that it took me 'til today to understand that taking a vacation is a human right. Thank goodness for the EU.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 21, 2010 5:14:50 PM

I have always said the easiest way to win the presidency is to make your only campaign promise 6 weeks of paid vacation for all workers. (Mandatory.. you MUST relax!)

Posted by: tbucket | Apr 21, 2010 6:44:53 PM

Three words come to mind:

"A Clockwork Orange"

Posted by: Allan | Apr 22, 2010 10:10:43 AM

that was all very nice but completely ASS BACKWARD. Sorry anytime the state wants to be a continuel intrusion into a citizens life the BURDEN OF PROOF is ON THEM. It's not his or her job to prove he/she isnt' dangerous it should be the STATE's job to prove it they are the ones saying THEY ARE STILL DANGEROUS. fine PROVE IT.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 22, 2010 1:54:52 PM

We certainly live in a global village. Although based in Galway on the west coast of Ireland, I learned of this decision (as I learn of most things of any value) from a sentecning blog written in Ohio and dealing with a decision made somewhat closer to home in London. I am not sure that certain members of the US Supreme Court would approve of all this cross-jurisdictional activity! From a comparative perspective, what this decision illustrates is, first of all, the significance of having an express right to personal and family privacy, as in Art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, against which claims of this kind can be measured. More importantly, perhaps, it illustrates the value of having a vibrant proportionality jurisprudence. Proportionality is a key interpretative element when evaluating claims under principal articles of the European Convention. This holds true in the European Court of Human Rights itself at Strasbourg and in domestic courts of those member states into which the Convention has been incorporated. Furthermore, proportionality is a much more vibrant sentencing princple on this side of the Atlantic than in the United States. Needless to say, all sentencing in Europe is non-capital. In Ireland, for example, it is a constitutional principle that every sentence must be proportionate not only to the gravity of the offence but also to the personal circumstances of the offender. As to the overall significance of this judgment of the UK Supreme Court, which replaced the House of Lords as of October 2009, it probably wont have a very profound impact. The Court has made a declaration that the law imposing a lifelong registration requirement on certain sex offenders is incompatible with Article 8 of the Convention because of the absence of a review provision. It is now for Parliament to act, as it usually does when a declaration of incompatibility is made. So, it should be a fairly simple, and hopefully uncontroversial matter, to insert a provision in the relevant legislation allowing for review in prescribed circumstances.

Posted by: Tom | Apr 22, 2010 5:50:49 PM

I think the UK has nailed it. This has always been and Human Rights issue and in America a Constitutional issue with inclusion of Violation of our Civil Rights. The United States has gone insane with the politician's wanting a vote and not giving any care or thought to a rights violation.

I guess that's why the sex offenders are winning so many cases now days. The courts are the only ones that still have any common sense and the "will apply the law" to a case.

Posted by: Book38 | Apr 22, 2010 6:29:05 PM

yes i keep waiting to see the first set of sex offenders from america taking their case to the world court for the u.s govts VIOLATION of their own constitution.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 22, 2010 11:53:38 PM

The Court has made a declaration that the law imposing a lifelong registration requirement on certain sex offenders is incompatible with Article 8 of the Convention because of the absence of a review provision.

Best Attorney

Posted by: saramolly | Apr 23, 2010 1:35:29 AM

Is it a violation of human rights to maintain a registry of people proposing registration of people, and then to allow anyone coming upon them to beat their ass with immunity, for a money reward?

Registration is a dumbass lawyer remedy for a serious problem. It substitutes paper work for the real remedy, 123D.

The murderer could have had a huge "Sex Offender" tattoo across his forehead, Megan would have still opened that door. Under 123D, he would have ceased to exist a decade and hundreds of victims earlier.

Registration is a diversionary tactic by the dumbass lawyer traitor to impart the appearance of action and remedy, while achieving no additional safety.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 24, 2010 7:58:08 AM

@Supremacy Claus:

I think that was the same thoughts the Nazi's had during WWII. In fact if you read Mein Kampf, you will find YOUR EXACT SAME THINKING in the book.

Feel a little ashamed yet?? Probably not.

Posted by: Book38 | Apr 28, 2010 7:40:16 PM

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