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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children Outside the United Kingdom Phase 2 Investigation Report

B.2: The legal framework

2. Civil orders, including those restricting the foreign travel of sex offenders, were introduced in May 2004 under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. At this time, a foreign travel order (FTO) could be imposed after a conviction for a sexual offence against a child such as rape, sexual assault or possession of indecent images of children.[1]

3. In 2013, an Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) review[2] of these civil orders was published. It concluded that the regime presented an “unnecessary and unreasonable obstruction to the objective of preventing sexual abuse of children, most particularly in vulnerable jurisdictions[3] and was “deeply flawed”.[4] The review recommended the simplification and strengthening of the legal framework.[5]

4. Amendments were made to the legal framework with effect from March 2015 and FTOs were replaced by two new orders:[6]

  • A sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) may be made after a person has been convicted of a sexual offence, such as rape, sexual assault or possession of indecent images of children.[7]
  • A sexual risk order (SRO) may be made where there has been no conviction but the person is proven to have done an act of a sexual nature.[8]

5. An SHPO or SRO can include a range of restrictions, including on foreign travel. Before making any SHPO or SRO, or including any restriction, the court must be satisfied that it is necessary to protect the public from sexual harm. This includes protecting children or vulnerable adults outside the UK.[9]

6. If an order restricting travel is made, this can apply to any foreign travel or only travel to certain countries. An order may last for up to five years, although this can be extended. A person subject to an order restricting any foreign travel must surrender their passport to a police station until the order ceases to have effect.

7. A court may impose an SHPO when dealing with an offender after conviction, if conditions are met at that stage.

8. Breach of either order without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence, punishable with up to five years in prison.[10]

9. The civil orders regime coexists with other preventive measures.

9.1. Most convicted sex offenders are subject to notification requirements (often referred to as being on the sex offenders’ register).[11] This includes notifying the police of any intended foreign travel.[12] Failure to do so is a separate offence, punishable with up to five years in prison.[13]

9.2. The police may apply to a court for a notification order requiring an offender convicted abroad of certain sexual offences to comply with notification requirements.[14] In 2017/18, 97 notification orders were imposed.[15]

9.3. Regardless of whether a civil order has been imposed, law enforcement agencies may notify overseas authorities of individuals known to pose a risk of sexual harm. Intelligence about offenders is disseminated through multilateral and bilateral channels.[16] For example, the NCA is aware of 41 high-risk individuals from the UK who were refused entry into another country between 1 January and 2 June 2018 after intelligence was shared.[17]


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