However, previous orders were criticised for not being effective enough, so the regime was updated in 2015 to address the realities of modern sex offending.

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPOs) and Sexual Risk Orders (SROs) were introduced to replace several older prevention orders, simplifying the regime and providing a wider remit to help prevent the commission of sexual offences before and after conviction.

SHPOs replaced the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPOs) and Foreign Travel Orders (FTOs), while SROs replaced Risk of Serious Harm Orders (ROSHOs).

All existing SOPOs, FTOs, and RSHOs converted to the replacement prevention orders in 2020 - but what do these orders entail, and what's the difference between an SHPO and SRO?


A Sexual Harm Prevention Order can be imposed by a court on conviction of an offence in Schedule 3 or 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, or applied for by the police or National Crime Agency.

The purpose of an SHPO is to protect people from sexual harm by restricting the offender's behaviours to reduce the risk of re-offending. For example, someone who was convicted of accessing indecent images of children may be restricted from using the internet.

If the individual was already convicted of a Schedule 3 or 5 sexual offence, an SHPO can be made based on alleged behaviour that did not result in prosecution, but also poses a risk of sexual harm.

On the other hand, a Sexual Risk Order does not require a qualifying caution or conviction, but can be applied if an individual is considered to pose a risk of sexual harm to the public.

If the defendant has committed a harmful act of a sexual nature, or there is reasonable belief that they pose a risk of proceeding to commit a sexual offence, then the police or National Crime Agency can apply to the Magistrates' Court for an SRO.

They can also be applied as interim orders while a defendant is on bail.

What are the conditions of an SHPO or SRO?

When a court grants an SHPO, the court can use this order to impose prohibitions on the offender in line with the related sexual offence or offences they committed.

These prohibitions can be whatever the court considers ‘necessary' to protect the general public from sexual harm, in particular children or vulnerable adults, either within the UK or outside of it.

For example, an SHPO can prevent offenders from taking up employment involving children or vulnerable adults, prohibit them from engaging in online activities like accessing social media, prevent them from travelling abroad, or prohibit any contact with children.

As a result of their conviction and their SHPO conditions, the offender will also be subject to notification requirements, registering with the local police and updating their details regularly (known informally as being on the Sex Offenders' Register).

The situation is similar for an SRO, under which the offender must also follow the specified conditions and notify the authorities of any changes in their personal circumstances.

Both orders can require ‘positive obligations', too - which could involve the offender attending a programme for behavioural changes or drug treatment as part of their risk management plan.

How long does an SHPO or SRO last?

An SHPO lasts for a minimum of 5 years, while an SRO lasts for a minimum of 2 years. There is no maximum duration for either, as they can last a lifetime if considered necessary by the court. In both cases, any foreign travel restrictions can last for up to 5 years.

The orders can specify different durations for certain prohibitions, with some requirements lasting for a fixed period and others potentially being indefinite.

What happens if you breach an SHPO or SRO?

Though these are civil orders, breaching an SHPO or SRO is a criminal offence. This means the CPS can prosecute the offender for failing to comply with the order and sentence them accordingly upon conviction, with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

If an offender subject to an SRO order fails to comply with its conditions, they could also become subject to stricter or full notification requirements.

Do you have to disclose an SHPO or SRO?

As administering an SHPO requires the offender to have received a police caution or conviction in court for a sexual offence, it will also go on the offender's criminal record, and these details will all be disclosed through criminal record checks.

An SHPO is considered spent at the end of its duration, but while it is unspent, the offender must disclose it to any institution or employer that requires a criminal record declaration.

As an SRO does not require a conviction, it is not a part of the offender's criminal record, though the police will retain the details of the civil order on their national database.

There are no legal requirements to disclose an SRO, and it typically would not be disclosed in a basic criminal record check. However, this may be disclosed during an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if the Chief Constable believes the information is relevant to the situation.

Can you challenge an SHPO or SRO?

These types of civil orders will have a significant impact on a defendant's life, as they last for several years and can negatively affect their career, relationship, and travel opportunities.

Though the conditions should be reasonable to uphold without difficulty, and not easy to breach, blanket prohibitions like restricting smartphone or computer ownership can be very unfair.

The terms of an SHPO or SRO are not necessarily set in stone for the duration of the order, so they can be varied or discharged on appeal if the prohibitions are disproportionate to the offence or not suited to changing circumstances.

The individual subject to the order can submit an application to the court that imposed it to challenge certain prohibitions or the entire order, which may require attending court hearings.

If you are subject to an SHPO or SRO and wish to appeal, vary, or discharge the order against you, seeking legal advice from a sexual offence specialist will give you the best chance of success.

For example, if you were cautioned for or convicted of an offence concerning indecent images of children and completed any imposed penalties, then an indecent images solicitor could help you with varying or discharging any SHPO or SRO that followed.