SHPOs & Notification Requirements – Unintended Consequences?

In the case of R v. Kyle Stevens [2023] EWCA Crim 397, where Mr Stevens pleaded guilty to possessing indecent photographs of children and extreme pornographic images, the appeal challenges the duration of the Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) imposed by the judge. Stevens was given a three-year community order and required to comply with the notification provisions of the Sexual¬†Offences Act 2003. The main issue in the appeal was the judge’s decision to impose a 10-year SHPO, which the appellant argued was excessive and wrong in principle. Benjamin Knight underlines the issue of the unintended consequences of section 352 of the Sentencing Act 2020.

Benjamin Knight - Caution when addressing SHPOs

The Court and counsel agreed that there was a need for an SHPO, but the minimum period of five years was sufficient given the risks posed by the Appellant, based on the material before the sentencing judge. The 10-year period was disproportionate and, to that extent, unnecessary. The Court allowed the appeal, quashing that aspect of the Order and substituting a SHPO in the same terms but for five years rather than 10 years.

This case highlights the new provisions in the Sentencing Act 2020, which extend the notification period to match the period of any longer SHPO. The Court noted that the judge may not have been aware of this and so had mistakenly told the Appellant that his notification requirement would last for five years.

This case demonstrates the unintended consequences of the SHPO exceeding the notification period, artificially extending the latter and causing potential issues for a defendant. If you are representing a person to whom the SHPO provisions apply, there is nothing in this case to suggest that the SHPO length should not follow the notification length (as had been the case in the plethora of authorities before this) but the wording of section 352 – which was intended to bring the two together on a statutory footing – has resulted in the risk of an artificially extended notification period.

This case also demonstrates that there is a risk for any judge imposing a SHPO for longer than the notification period specified by statute – especially if they fail to give any justification for not giving effect to Parliament’s clear intention. Here, no reasoning was given as to why 10 years was felt to be the appropriate length of SHPO. That is not to say that there wasn’t a case for it – merely that the judge failed to say why and so the Court of Appeal had little choice but to conclude that there was no such reason.