Graham’s SOPO was due to end at the end of this year but, he decided that he’d enquire as to whether he could get it discharged earlier. He was told that he could apply and thought that it would be useful to share his experience.
I was convicted of a sexual offence in 2008 and given a 10 year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).
Earlier this year, I made enquiries at the Crown Court as to how I would go about discharging my SOPO. The Court provided me with quite a vague response and I was told that my enquiry would be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Within a matter of weeks, I received a letter from the Court notifying me that I was due to appear there in one week’s time for my appeal hearing. I found this very odd as I’d not actually asked for my SOPO to be discharged; I’d only made an initial enquiry. It would appear that the CPS had no objection to my application and neither did the police, and it was therefore the police who made the application not me.
The advice I’d received from a couple of organisations stated was that if there were no objections raised, then the discharge would be a paper exercise and I wouldn’t have to attend the court in person. I fully expected to receive a letter from the Clerk saying that I wasn’t required to attend but I was wrong and had to go along.
Given that I had just one week’s notice, I was concerned about the process in court and whether I’d need a solicitor to represent me. In the end, I felt I’d be able to represent myself and, with both the CPS and the police raising no objection to the discharge, I really felt I would be pushing at an open door. However, I did take the precaution of writing a letter of submission to the judge in which I expressed remorse for my original crime, set out details of the courses I’d attended, pointed out my crime-free years since my conviction, how I’d worked in the community, and the fact that I was in a loving and stable relationship. This was posted to the Clerk of the Court for the judge’s attention.
My appearance in court was possibly one of the shortest on record, fifteen seconds maximum. I was asked to identify myself, which I did and then the judge simply said that he agreed with the CPS and the police and the order was “hereby” discharged.
However, he did add that as the order had been made in a Crown Court it must also be discharged there with me in attendance. This may be a new requirement but it certainly flies in the face of the advice given from several quarters that it would merely be a paper exercise.
So, for anybody thinking about applying to have a SOPO discharged, I’d give the following advice:
- If you’ve adhered to all your SOPO conditions then it might be worth asking your Public Protection Officer (PPO) about a discharge. I was a low-risk offender so this may have helped. Just remember that the police have to agree to an appeal if it’s within five years of the order being made; after that they don’t.
- You may be asked to attend court. I would have been happy to answer any questions put to me by the judge but, as the CPS and the police had no objections, I wasn’t asked any. If you’re not going to use a solicitor then it might be useful if you write a letter in advance to the judge – as I did – outlining why you’re requesting your SOPO be revoked. I cannot say whether this had any impact on the judge’s decision, but it won’t have had any adverse effect.
- The decision to terminate my SOPO five months early may indicate the pressure that the police are under and the tacit understanding that low-risk offenders are taking up too much police time. If this is true, then an appeal to discharge a SOPO may not be as fraught as you might think.
I hope this helps and gives more people the confidence to apply to the court.
By Graham (name changed to protect identity)
A comment from Unlock
This story will hopefully encourage others with SOPO’s to seek the permission of their Public Protection Officer to have their SOPO’s discharged.
Whilst you may have to attend court, it appears that the hearing could be quite short and cause you less stress than continuing with a SOPO which can impact on when your conviction becomes spent.