Violent ex-offenders face further restrictions

By Liz Stephens

The government will announce new civil orders for violent ex-offenders today as part of an updated strategy to tackle violent crime.

Violent Offender Orders (VOOs) will be introduced allowing authorities to ban individuals from places, events or contacting specified people for between two and five years.

VOOs will operate in similar ways to the sex offender’s register, with those who have a VOO placed on them having a legal obligation to tell police if they move home, change their name, or go abroad.

Breaking the terms of a VOO will be punishable by up to five years in prison.

The VOOs will only be applicable to serious offenders who have reached the end of a licence or prison sentence for a serious violent offence and who may be at risk of re-offending.

Policing minister David Hanson said: “Violent Offender Orders are a valuable tool to help protect the public and disrupt offending behaviour.

“VOOs will build on other public protection measures and reduce this risk so the most violent offenders can be managed beyond the end of their sentence or probation.

Keith Bristow, head of crime for the association of chief police officers (ACPO) said:

“We anticipate they will be used in a small number of cases, but that it will allow us to deal with those who are deemed to require further monitoring.”

However, Frances Crook, director of The Howard League for Penal Reform warned the orders would “distract us from the real issues, such as the appalling rape conviction rate that stands at less than 10 per cent.”

“If the government focused on improving the conviction rate for rapists, we wouldn’t need gimmicks to feel safer; we would be safer,” she said.

“People will end up in our already overcrowded prisons for not fulfilling a bureaucratic procedure, such as missing an appointment, as opposed to having committed a violent crime.

“We have learnt from ASBOs and other civil orders that heaping more and more restrictions on behaviour sets people up to fail, which has helped the prison population grow to uncontrollable levels.”

The government awarded £3.2 million funding yesterday to help victims of sexual violence.

But critics have criticised the government for spreading too little money too thinly – it is to be shared by almost 100 support centres.

The funding announcement came as video footage was released of London Mayor Boris Johnson being accosted on his bicycle last month by women angry at his failure to live up to his election manifesto to fund three new rape crisis centres in the capital.

London currently only has one rape and sexual abuse crisis centre, based in Croydon. The centre said that the waiting list for support for victims can be as long as four months.