Sex offenders need internet access, judge rules

Banning online access 'unreasonable'

A British court has ruled that denying a sex offender access to the internet is an unreasonable intrusion into his civil rights.

"Nowadays it is entirely unreasonable to ban anybody from accessing the internet in their home," Mr Justice Collins ruled at the court of appeal in London, the Guardian reports.

The case stemmed from the case of Phillip Michael Jackson, 55, who was convicted of sexual offenses after he was found to have hidden his mobile phone in a shampoo bottle and used it to video a 14-year old girl in the shower. The girl raised the alarm after she spotted an LED flashing inside the bottle.

A police investigation into the affair found that Jackson's home computer contained pornographic images of children as young as four, as well as scenes of bestiality. Jackson received a community order with three years supervision in June, but appealed against the sexual offenses prevention order (SOPO) which came with his sentence.

Under the terms of the SOPO, Jackson was banned from having a computer, using a camera in public, and working with children. Police would also have been allowed to inspect his home at any time, and the sentencing judge had harsh words for Jackson.

"The judge imposing the SOPO said, 'I anticipate that you will die subject to this order – that is my wish anyway.' They were not appropriate remarks to have made," Collins told the court.

In the ruling, the court found that the original ruling had been "entirely excessive," and Jackson will now simply have to give the police access to his browsing history.

The case raises some interesting legal questions. Hackers and crackers are routinely denied internet access if convicted, as are some other forms of criminal. If the courts are setting the precedent that internet access is a fundamental right, then a lot of sentences could be up for review.

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