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New provision in the Violent Crime Reduction Act
A new power for the police to enter and search a registered sex offender's home, to assess the risk they pose to our communities, was today welcomed by Home Secretary John Reid.
The new measure, which comes into force under the Violent Crime Reduction Act, means that where an offender has denied access to the police on more than one occasion, the police can apply for a warrant to enter and search the property, by force if necessary.
For example, if a police officer sees a child's bike in the house of a registered sex offender, the officer might then decide to search for further evidence to reassess the risk posed by the offender. Where it can be demonstrated that the offender poses a risk of serious sexual harm, the police could then apply for a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) or decide whether it was necessary to alert others to the presence of the offender.
This provision is about prevention and managing the risk of offenders - no new crime has to have happened for the police to apply for a warrant from a magistrate to enter and search.
Home Secretary John Reid said:
"Protecting the public from sex offenders is one of the highest priorities for the Government. Nowhere is this more true than with children.
"Our supervision and public protection arrangements are already among the best in the world. We are one of only seven countries to have a sex offenders' register, but we are always looking to update and improve our current arrangements.
"This new power will help police better manage known sex offenders and allow preventative action to be taken before an offence actually happens."
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Violent Crime Reduction Act received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006 and its measures have been introduced on a staggered basis. The Act can be viewed online at: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060038_en.pdf
2. Sexual offences prevention orders (SOPOs) were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. They are used to impose prohibitions on violent offenders or sex offenders who pose a risk of serious sexual harm. For example, a SOPO could be used to prohibit an offender from being alone with children under 16 and from loitering outside playgrounds. If an offender breaches the prohibitions contained in a SOPO, this is a criminal offence and he is liable to a maximum of 5 years' imprisonment.