Sugden announces new public protection measures

Date published: 01 December 2016

A new court-based order has been introduced today aimed at helping protect the public from risk of harm caused by serious violent offenders.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden said “I know that people have concerns about the risk of violent offenders in the community.  Public protection is a necessary role for the justice system and it is important that we continue to work with the agencies involved, to ensure that they have the correct tools and powers to help reduce the risk posed by violent offenders.

“I believe that the Violent Offences Prevention Order will have a positive impact on the effectiveness of the current risk management arrangements.  It will help increase public confidence in how we manage risk.  The new Order has been specifically tailored for this jurisdiction, and shaped through consultation with the public and the criminal justice agencies.  Its comprehensive framework is designed to tackle areas considered a priority by those agencies, such as domestic violence.”

The Violent Offences Prevention Order can be used to prohibit a person’s access to certain places, premises or events and from contact with those people to whom they pose the highest risk.  It can also include positive requirements, such as attending a rehabilitative programme to help with offending behaviour.

The statutory notification requirements will help ensure that the criminal justice agencies are kept informed of their whereabouts.

Those who breach the Order’s conditions, or who fail to notify their details, are liable to up to five years imprisonment.

Notes to editors: 

1.         Main provision for the Violent Offences Prevention Order (VOPO) was made in Part 8, sections 55 to 76 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 – “the Act”. The Act gained Royal Assent on 24 July 2015. Secondary legislation has since been made to support the main VOPO provisions.

2.         The Order can only be made where the court is satisfied that the person has committed a specified offence (listed in the legislation) and that it is necessary for protecting the public from the risk of serious violent harm from the person concerned.  It is a targeted risk management tool and does not apply to all violent offenders automatically.

3.         The key characteristics of the VOPO are:

  • allows the court to make an Order on conviction (of a specified offence) or on application by the police at a subsequent stage;
  • allows the court to make an interim order, to secure immediate protection, pending consideration of a main order;
  • enables the court to place prohibitions and/or requirements on the offender’s behaviour;
  • can be put in place for a minimum of two years up to a maximum of five years;
  • can apply during a custodial term/period of detention, or when person is in the community;
  • can apply to all offenders, regardless of age;
  • requires the person to notify personal information to police and require that this information is updated;
  • provides police with a power of entry and search of an offender’s home address for the purpose of risk assessment.

4.         The notification requirements are that the offender must:

  • make initial notification to police in person, within three days of when the VOPO was made (or they leave custody etc.). They must provide: their name; date of birth; national insurance number; home address; and any other addresses where they regularly reside;
  • notify any changes within three days of the change occurring.
  • re-notify every year (those of no fixed abode must notify weekly);
  • notify all intended travel outside the United Kingdom, and intended travel within the United Kingdom, or to the Republic of Ireland, where it is for a period of three days or more;
  • notify when they have resided, or stayed, for a period of at least 12 hours, at a household or other private place where a child resides or stays.
  • provide information relating to bank accounts, credit and debit cards;
  • provide information contained in any passport or other form of identification held by them.

5.         Failure to comply with any prohibition or requirement of an order, or with its notification requirements, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years imprisonment on indictment.

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