What is a VOPO?
A VOPO is a civil prevention order which a court can place on certain offenders who pose a risk of serious violent harm to the public.
The order places prohibitions or requirements on the behaviour of the person concerned, and they must also notify personal information to police .
The order can be made by the court when the person is being dealt with in relation to ‘a specified offence’ or at a later stage, upon application by the police, where a risk has been identified.
The order can last for a period of between 2 and 5 years, and the court can impose an interim order where immediate protection from risk is considered necessary.
The order can also be varied, renewed or discharged by the court if an application is made to it.
Who qualifies for a VOPO?
The VOPO can apply to an adult offender, as well as a young offender.
Before an order can be imposed, the person must have been:
- convicted of a specified offence
- found not guilty of a specified offence by reason of insanity, or
- found to be unfit to be tried and to have done the act charged in respect of a specified offence.
The above includes offences or acts committed before, or after, commencement of the VOPO on 1 December 2016, and it also includes offences or acts a person committed abroad.
Before making an order, the court must be satisfied that the VOPO is necessary for the purpose of protecting the public from the risk of serious violent harm caused by the individual concerned.
What conditions can be imposed?
The order will be tailored by the court to suit an individual case.
The type of prohibitions an order can contain includes limiting or prohibiting the person’s access to certain people, places or premises, or events. Requirements can include attending a rehabilitative programme.
What is a specified offence?
The offences which apply to the VOPO are those violent offences listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
These can be read through the link below:
This is a comprehensive list, and includes offences such as manslaughter, malicious wounding, threats to kill.
The offence of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, however, only applies in limited circumstances, such as when committed in a domestic violence situation.
What are notification requirements?
Notification requirements for the VOPO are the same as those in place for the sex offender, known as the ‘sex offender register’.
The main purpose of notification requirements is to ensure the police are kept better informed about the person’s whereabouts.
Notification requirements include the requirement to provide the following details:
- date of birth
- national insurance number
- home address and any other addresses of regular residence
- all intended travel within the United Kingdom
- all intended travel outside the United Kingdom, or intended travel to the Republic of Ireland (when travelling for 3 days or more)
- when residing or staying for a period of at least 12 hours at a household or other private place where a child resides or stays
- bank accounts, credit and debit cards held, whether alone or with another person and whether in the name of an unincorporated business
- passport or other form of identification held.
When must notification be made?
Initial notification must be made within three days of when the order was made, or from when they leave custody. The information provided must be updated annually, or weekly for those of no fixed abode, or when a change to the information has occurred.
What happens if the person who has a VOPO doesn't comply with its condition?
Whilst the VOPO is a civil order, breach of its conditions is a criminal offence, which may result in a fine and/ or imprisonment of up to 5 years.