The Sex Offenders Register - What is it and how will it affect me?

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At PCD Solicitors, we regularly act for clients wishing to appeal against or apply for an amendment of their notification requirements, which are usually imposed following a conviction of a sexual offence. Both new and existing clients often ask us questions such as: What are 'notification requirements'? Do they apply to me? And most of all: How will they affect my life?

Here, we explain what the Sex Offenders’ Register (SRO) is, which criminal offences can result in someone being placed on this register, what the notification requirements are for sex offenders, and the short-term and long-term impacts these requirements might have on an individual’s life.

What is the Sex Offenders’ Register (SRO)?

Following a conviction of a sexual offence in England or Wales, the penalties can include a potentially long prison sentence – but regardless of whether you receive a caution or a jail sentence, you will have to join the Sex Offenders’ Register.

There is a common belief that there is a large central register that every convicted sexual offender has to sign, but this is actually not the case. The common term ‘Sex Offenders’ Register’ refers to the notification system whereby convicted offenders of ‘relevant offences’ are required to register their details with the police.

Notification requirements are an automatic condition for offenders who receive a conviction or caution for certain sexual offences. They are not dependent on an order of the court – an offender becomes subject to these requirements automatically because they have been convicted, cautioned, reprimanded, or warned for a ‘relevant offence’.  The requirements also apply to those found ‘not guilty’ by reason of insanity or disability, but who did carry out the offence they were charged with.

It is often the case that defendants are advised to report to their local police station following their first appearance in court, where a guilty plea is entered – however, this is dependent on whether the offence is a ‘relevant offence’ and a conviction triggers the requirements.

The notification requirements for those convicted of or cautioned for sexual offences were initially introduced in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland as part of the Sex Offenders Act 1997. This has since been amended, with notification requirements now recognised under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Notification requirements are not a punishment for a sexual offence and are not part of the system of penalties. However, an offender may feel very differently about this point, and actually feel very restricted by the requirements imposed on them.

What is a relevant offence?

A relevant offence is an offence listed within Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. These offences include, but are not limited to:

  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Possession or distribution of indecent photographs of children
  • Inciting a child to engage in sexual activity

The list of relevant offences also includes those that do not necessarily involve children. Age and sentence thresholds have been applied to some of the offences to ensure that only the most serious offending will trigger the requirements.

For example, in a case involving the offence of sex with an adult relative, an offender will only be required to register with the police if they have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment or detained in hospital.

For any person convicted or cautioned for an offence listed under this Act, whether it involves children or adults, the applicable thresholds must be met to trigger notification requirements.

It is always recommended to seek advice relevant to your individual circumstances from a specialist solicitor if you believe you have committed a ‘relevant offence’.

What are the notification requirements?

Upon conviction of an offence subject to notification requirements, you are advised to attend your local police station and provide the relevant information.

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Notification and Requirements) (England & Wales) Regulations 2012, a convicted sex offender who qualifies for notification requirements must register in person at a nominated police station within 3 days of their conviction or release from custody.

The police will be informed by the courts or probation service when an offender is required to register. They hold all details of those convicted of relevant sexual offences in a database, allowing them to monitor and control any likelihood of re-offending and ensure the general public is protected from potential harm. 

When reporting to the police to fulfil notification requirements, an offender must provide the requested personal information, such as their:

  • Name (and any other aliases)
  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • Main address
  • Bank account details
  • ID documents
  • Offence and conviction

Registered offenders are also required to notify police if they reside in a home where a child (under 18 years old) is present for more than 12 hours, and to provide any other addresses where they might reside for more than 7 days in 12 months.

What is expected of me now that I am subject to notification requirements?

Once you have followed the instructions of the court or probation service and registered with the police, there is a possibility that they could visit your home.

The police may attend the residence of a convicted sex offender to conduct a risk assessment under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). The frequency of visits is determined by the level of risk an offender may present. An offender is not obliged to allow officers to enter their home – however, the police can seek to obtain a warrant from the Magistrates to enter and search the premises, should they have the relevant legal grounds to do so. 

As part of the registration process, offenders can expect to have their photograph and possibly their fingerprints taken in addition to providing the required details.

The notification requirements are ongoing, which means that offenders must notify the police of any updates within 3 days of the changes, and must report to the police annually even if the information remains the same. If they do not have a fixed abode, offenders are required to let the police know where they are on a weekly basis.

Anyone on the Sex Offenders’ Register must also inform the police at least 7 days prior to their departure if they plan to travel outside of the UK.

What happens if you do not comply with notification requirements?

Failure to make an initial notification is itself a criminal offence, which could result in a further arrest, court appearance, and prison term – potentially up to 5 years.

It is also considered a criminal offence if you breach the ongoing requirements without a reasonable excuse, including failure to:

  • Update changed details
  • Notify of travel abroad
  • Re-notify annually

Providing false information, or only notifying the police after the fact instead of in advance or within 3 days, could also result in further legal action against you.

This is why it is crucial for an offender to ensure that they keep up with their notification requirements for the duration of their notification period.

Do you have to notify people if you’re on the Sex Offenders’ Register?

Many offenders may assume that they have to disclose their sexual offence conviction to others for as long as they are subject to notification requirements, but being on the Sexual Offenders’ Register does not mean that you automatically have to tell people.

The police will only inform people around you if there is a potential risk, such as child safeguarding concerns for local authorities, healthcare providers, schools, and employers. They will assess the risk and disclose relevant details on a case-by-case basis.

This can also apply to personal relationships – even if the individual does not want to disclose their past conviction to a new partner, the police may deem it necessary to inform them, especially if they are living with the offender.

An offender does not need to notify an employer about their conviction if the offence has been spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but disclosure is legally required if a potential employer requires a criminal record declaration.

Unless the offender is also subject to restrictions under a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), they should not be barred from travelling outside the UK because they are on the SRO. However, they must notify the police before departure, and even if the police do not see fit to notify the authorities in the destination country, the individual must be aware that some countries require criminal record disclosures and could refuse entry.

How long will I be subject to notification requirements?

According to Section 82 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the period of time an offender is required to comply with the notification requirements for will depend on how the offender was sentenced in regard to the ‘relevant offence’ and their age.

The table below provides a guide to the notification period for potential sentences.


Notification period (aged 18 or over upon conviction)

Notification period (aged under 18 upon conviction)

Imprisonment for 30 months or more (including life)

Indefinite period

Indefinite period

Admission to hospital subject to a restriction order

Indefinite period

Indefinite period

Sentence to imprisonment for more than 6 months but less than 30

10 years

5 years

Imprisonment for 6 months or less

7 years

3.5 years

Admitted to hospital without a restriction order

7 years

3.5 years

Is cautioned by the police for a ‘relevant offence’

2 years

1 year

Is given a conditional discharge

The duration of the conditional discharge

The duration of the conditional discharge

Received any other disposal (such as a community punishment of fine)

5 years

2.5 years

Individuals subject to an extended sentence should be aware that the notification period is calculated using the whole term. For instance, if sentenced to four months plus a four-month extended supervision period, the total term would be eight months. The resultant notification period would therefore be 10 years rather than the 7 years that would have resulted from a four-month custodial sentence.

If the offender was under the age of 18, the notification period is likely to be reduced.

Can I appeal my notification requirements?

If you are on the Sex Offenders’ Register and subject to notification requirements for a fixed period, you cannot appeal to amend or remove your requirements and must wait for the notification period to run its course and expire.

If you are subject to notification requirements for an indefinite period, this means you could be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for the rest of your lifetime.

However, the Supreme Court decided that the indefinite notification requirements were incompatible with Article 8 (the right to family and private life) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). In response, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order was introduced on 30th July 2012 as a mechanism for offenders to seek a review of their indefinite requirements.

The law states that offenders who have been subject to notification requirements for a period of 15 years in the case of an adult offender and 8 years in the case of a juvenile offender are eligible to make an application for review.

We often represent clients who want to make an application for the amendment of their requirements to both the police and Magistrates Court. It is imperative that any application is carefully drafted to ensure the courts can be satisfied that an offender no longer poses a risk of re-offending and their circumstances have changed compared to those at the time of the offence.

When making any application for amendment of requirements or appealing the requirement to notify, we will take your comprehensive instructions and discuss your personal circumstances in detail so that we can present the strongest application possible to the police and/or court. 

How can PCD Solicitors help you?

If you are currently facing allegations that could potentially lead to restrictions being placed on your everyday life, we are here to advise you on the law and guide you through the process with the aim of securing the best result for you.

We are passionate about working with our clients to prove their innocence at the police investigative stage or at court. We always work incredibly hard on our clients’ behalf to ensure any decisions reached by the court or police are fair and just.

Should you intend to plead guilty to a sexual offence, our specialists can prepare your case and mitigation thoroughly with a view to the most lenient sentence being imposed – in turn ensuring that you are only made subject to notification requirements for the shortest possible period.

Should you wish to discuss appealing your notification requirements, or if you need general advice in relation to a sexual offence allegation, please contact our office on 0151 705 8488 for a free and confidential chat.

You can also email queries about the Sex Offenders’ Register or related notification requirements to our team at, and we will be in touch to provide more information and arrange a consultation if needed.