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Judge makes minor tweaks to sex ban IT man's order

Must notify cops in advance of nookie 'as soon as practicable'

A York judge has made some trifling tweaks to an order he imposed on a former IT contractor banning him from having sex unless he asked police 24 hours in advance.

District Judge Adrian Lower, sitting at York Magistrates' Court yesterday, heard John O'Neill's application to vary a Sexual Risk Order (SRO) that the same judge imposed on him back in August.

The previous requirement to notify police 24 hours in advance of having sexual contact was varied so O'Neill now has to tell cops “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

North Yorkshire Police, which asked the judge to impose the order, claimed it was the “correct course of action”.

O'Neill has never been convicted of a criminal offence. He was cleared of rape after a retrial last year. Yet an alarming loophole in the legislation behind SROs allows them to be applied to people who have been “dealt with” by courts in relation to a sexual offence – allowing people acquitted by a jury of their peers to be punished anyway, regardless of the verdict.

There is no requirement for an alleged perpetrator to be found guilty of anything before the SRO punishment can be imposed. To evade the possibility of a second jury clearing the innocent party, SROs can be imposed by magistrates' courts where there are no juries, only judges. Such orders are generally handed down by full-time salaried district judges, rather than lay magistrates drawn from the community.

“In practical terms I am not seeing much difference,” O'Neill told the BBC.

As part of the new 12 conditions he must live by, his internet use will continue to be monitored by police and he must give them his mobile phone PIN. The original order specified that he had to physically hand to police any internet-connected device he used, which O'Neill said made him unemployable.

In August Judge Lower described O'Neill as “a vain, manipulative and grandstanding individual who sought to persuade me that black is white and used the valuable time of professionals to describe sexual fantasies he may or may not have.”

He told his GP that he needed women “to be scared, or I don't respond” in bed and also told the doctor he may have raped a former partner. In court he claimed this was part of a sado-masochistic fantasy and that the doctor had misunderstood what he was saying.

"This is a predictive allegation of a sex crime and the new law allows it to be offloaded to a civil court," he told the BBC. The new order bans him from discussing his sado-masochistic fantasies with medical personnel, and all his medical appointments must now have a chaperone.

"If people cannot make honest disclosures to their doctor without fear of being slapped with an SRO that can literally sever you from society, we are all in trouble,” O'Neill told Sky News. The broadcaster has discovered that more than 50 SROs have been handed out in England and Wales.

Research by The Register revealed that West Yorkshire Police made a dozen applications for SROs in August this year, after O'Neill's case came to public attention.

It appears that media reports alerted West Yorkshire Police to the existence of a criminal punishment that doesn't need the time, expense – or safeguards – of a full trial or a guilty verdict. ®

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