What is a sexual harm prevention order? What you need to know

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In the last year, related to sexual offence law, there has been something of a shake-up.

It is now possible for somebody who has been found guilty of committing a sexual offence or has been found not guilty of committing a sexual offence to have a sexual harm prevention order (or SHPO) placed on them.

So, if you have a relative who has recently been charged with an offence under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003, you may be curious to learn more about what a sexual harm prevention order is, how it may impact their life and any potential consequences that it may have. So, read on to learn more.

What is a sexual harm prevention order?

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A sexual harm prevention order is made against someone who has committed an offence against another person, relating to the guidelines set down in the Sexual Offences Act of 2003.

Generally speaking, an SHPO is imposed by a judge at the Crown Court or a magistrate, and it can be placed on somebody who is deemed to be a risk against the public or a specific person. If you want more guidance about what a sexual harm prevention order is, contact a sexual offence solicitor.

Reasons they are imposed

Some of the reasons why they are imposed have already been explained, but if your loved one has had a conviction made against them relating to the Sexual Offences Act, then the application may be made at the time of conviction by the crown prosecutor or the police.

If your loved one has a sexual offence case that is complex, a judge may request a pre-sentence report, which will involve a behavioural expert meeting with your loved one and discerning their family history, their dynamics and their mental state. But in short, an SHPO will be imposed if the offender presents a risk of sexual harm to general members of the public or a specific person. It also has to be determined that imposing an SHPO will prevent these individuals from coming to harm.

As a general rule, an SHPO can be imposed following rape, sexual or indecent assault, indecent exposure, child pornography charges, exploitation of prostitution encouraging prostitution or voyeurism.

Consequences of an SHPO

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The consequences of having an SHPO placed on someone will mean that they will be subjected to the terms of the order. These will be based on the individual case that they have, which will look at what they have done, their mental capacity and the risk of them offending again. Some of these conditions may be imposed for a set period of time; others may be imposed for the rest of a person’s life.


Many people have concerns that an SHPO will have conditions related to travel. If this is a condition that has been imposed, usually due to sexual offences committed overseas, then your loved one will have to surrender their passport. Even if the SHPO is lifted, it’s worth noting that many countries will not allow somebody to visit if there is a history of SHPO on their record.

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