Saying "no" to SOPU

Eppie Sprung, Next Chapter Scotland
May 7, 2024

I know now that when I was on the Sex Offenders Register I was being supervised by police officers who will have been a part of the Sex Offenders Policing Unit. I don’t remember calling them that at the time. I simply referred to them as “my” police officers!


They were professional yet friendly enough. I certainly never felt threatened by them and I very much understand that they were there to do their job.


From the outset, the police officers were happy to acknowledge that I was far from “high risk”.


However, with hindsight, I can see that I agreed to a whole host of demands that went well beyond the notification requirements that I legally had to comply with.


My whole experience of being involved with the criminal justice system was a blur of me agreeing to pretty much every single thing that was asked of me as I was in a state of near constant terror (partly terror at the thought of going to prison and partly terror of the absolute unknown regarding what the rest of my life was going to hold).


I do, however, have one very clear memory of when I pushed back against a demand that the police made of me.


After my arrest I rented out one of the rooms in my house. “My” police had come for a visit to my house and had asked to look in the room that I was renting out. I didn’t feel at all comfortable with the idea of that. Especially given that the person that was renting the room was out at the time and therefore wasn’t available to consent. It felt to me like a serious invasion of their privacy and I couldn’t see how it could be, in any way, relevant.


I asked the police officers whether I was obliged, by law, to comply with their request. With a couple of uncomfortable looks between them, they confirmed that I did not legally have to comply.


So I declined to comply with their request.


Now, I understand that in other people’s circumstances, the request to look inside a closed room in someone’s house might be reasonable in “managing risk”. However, in my case it clearly wasn’t appropriate and I think the police understood that and nothing more happened as a result of it.


But it most certainly shifted the dynamic between me and my police officers. I was no longer blindly compliant. I had regained some degree of power and I felt so much better as a result.


It amazes me, looking back, that I didn’t have a clearer sense of exactly what was and what wasn’t legally required of me. I’m certain that, had I understood more, I would have questioned more.


Don’t get me wrong, I would still have complied with almost every request for the sake of an easy life (knowing that there was clearly a risk of them making additional demands of me if I didn’t comply) but I would at least have understood that I was complying through my own choice, as opposed to because I didn’t know any better.

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