Extraterritorial legislation in the UK

Extraterritorial legislation allows the UK to prosecute sex offenders who are British Nationals even when the offence is not committed on home territory. It also enables UK law enforcement to charge perpetrators who return to the UK when there has been no arrest by other jurisdictions abroad.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is the primary legislative instrument that deals with all types of sexual offences in the UK. Within this Act there are specific provisions for those committing sex crimes against children whilst abroad. The Act applies to England and Wales only; Scotland is covered by the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Extraterritorial legislation is embodied in Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This section states that any UK national or resident who commits sexual acts prohibited by UK law whilst abroad, is guilty of that offence in the UK. In Scotland, this provision is covered by Section 55 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Dual criminality

Section 72 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 amended Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 removed the aspect of ‘dual criminality’ for sexual offences. This means that UK nationals who commit sexual offences against children abroad are criminally liable for the offence, regardless of whether the exploitation is classed as a criminal offence overseas. In other words, there is no requirement for the crime to be an offence in both countries. The Act extended extraterritorial jurisdiction for the offence of grooming of children for sexual exploitation.

Civil orders

In March 2015, the UK government introduced two new civil orders in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO) and Sexual Risk Orders (SRO). They are intended to protect members of the public in the UK, children and vulnerable adults from sexual harm including the offences of grooming by sex offenders outside of the UK. They replace three previous civil orders in Sexual Offences Act 2003.- risk of sexual harm order (ROSHO), sexual offences prevention order (SOPO)and the foreign travel order(FTO)

The Orders, issued by courts, would place restrictions on the movements and activities of anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence including individuals who have committed offences overseas or who pose a risk of sexual harm to children and vulnerable adults in the UK and abroad. Restrictions can include limiting their internet use, preventing them from being alone with a child under 16, home-tutoring children, or preventing travel abroad

Sexual Risk Order (SRO)

This civil order enables the court to impose prohibitions on individuals if there is reasonable cause to believe that the individual poses a risk of harm to others, even if they have never been convicted or cautioned for a sexual or violent offence under Schedule 3 or Schedule 5. The SRO has a minimum duration of two years and a maximum duration of five years.

Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO)

A civil order that enables a court to impose prohibitions on an individual who has been convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence under Schedule 3 or Schedule 5, including when the offence is committed overseas.  In order for the court to issue an SHPO it must be proved that since the appropriate date the offender has behaved in a way that threatens sexual harm to the public or a member of the public. The SHPO lasts for a minimum of five years with no maximum period, although it is not necessary to set a duration in the order and if no duration is set, the order will exist until it is successfully appealed.

Other UK tools to protect children outside of the UK

The International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC)

The ICPC is a criminal records check for UK nationals, or non-UK nationals who have previously lived in the UK, working or seeking work with children overseas. Many international schools and organisations around the world employ people from the UK as workers and volunteers. The ICPC exists to help protect children from offenders who travel overseas to exploit vulnerable children through employment and volunteering.

The ICPC checks individuals’ criminal records against police and intelligence databases in the UK. The ICPC is similar to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check that is required for anyone working professionally with children in England and Wales.

Each organisation will have their own policy on criminal records checks for staff, and will be guided by the statutory requirements and/or government recommendations in the country in which they are operating.

The certificates are issued on application by the individuals who are planning to work overseas. This is likely to take place only when institutions abroad require the ICPC certificate as contingency for employment.