Disclosure Rules The Justice Committee Calls for Evidence

convictions blight2

Following work by the Standing Committee of Youth Justice (SCYJ), of which Wipetheslateclean is a member, the Justice Committee has launched a short inquiry into the system governing the disclosure of criminal records in relation to offences committed by people when under 18 years old.

The Committee is now calling for evidence to be submitted and welcomes written submissions on:

  • The appropriateness and effectiveness of the statutory framework applying to the disclosure to employers and others of criminal records relating to offences committed by people when under 18 years old
  • whether that framework and the way in which it is operated in practice strike an appropriate balance between protection of employers and the public, on the one hand, and the rehabilitation of people committing offences when young, on the other hand
  • the effects in respect of the disclosure of such records of changes made in 2013 to the filtering of offences from criminal records checks and in 2014 to rehabilitation periods.

 

This is excellent news and provides the opportunity for individuals and organisations who feel they have been impacted by Disclosure rules to tell their story. The deadline for submissions is Friday 11 November 2016.

 

 

Paying for Teenage Crimes 30 years on

Haunted by past: Why one Bristol man is still paying for teenage crimes 30 years on

“I ALMOST cried, someone as big and hairy as me almost crying, that’s how bad I felt at that moment,” Calvin said at his home in St George.

The 52-year-old is describing the moment he was dismissed from his post barely 10 minutes after starting the role.

His sin? Calvin had not disclosed on his application that he was a juvenile delinquent more than 30 years ago – a requisite under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 if you are taking a role which involves working with vulnerable people.

Read the full story

Bob Ashford’s article in “The Magistrate” on the long-term impact of Police and Armed forces cautions

MAgistrate – Winter 2013.

Guest Post from Christopher Stacey: Disclosure of old and minor convictions

Many organisations have signed up to our Wipetheslateclean campaign. Unlock has been with us from the start. This week’s guest blog is by Christopher Stacey. He presents an overview of the current model regarding disclosure, the recent government proposal for change and the changes that Unlock would like to see.

 

Chris Stacey, Director of Services, Unlock

Chris Stacey, Director of Services, Unlock

Chris is Director (Services) for Unlock, a UK charity for people with convictions. He was a member of the IAPDCR that provided recommendations to the Home Office in 2011 on how a system of filtering could work.

Disclosure of old and minor convictions

 

Over 9.2 million people with England and Wales have a criminal record. Having to disclose a past conviction, even an old and minor one from childhood, can cause significant disadvantage to an individual and their family. The effect is perhaps clearest in relation to employment, where a ‘CRB check’ can destroy hopes of pursuing a career or just getting a job. Even the fear of the check itself can force people to ‘opt out’ of other opportunities, like volunteering for a local community centre.

 

The UK’s current approach to retaining and disclosing even the most minor of convictions is a relatively recent development. Until 2005, police services were ‘weeding’ (deleting) some convictions from criminal records. Between 2005 and 2009, the discretionary power of Chief Police Officer’s was weakened to ‘stepping-down’ some convictions, so that they no longer appeared on a CRB check. This system gave less clarity to people with convictions, as even if a conviction was stepped down on one occasion, it might be disclosed on the next.

 

Then, following a Court of Appeal decision in October 2009, which found that the police had the right to retain conviction data, ACPO advised police forces to disclose all convictions (and cautions, reprimands and warnings) until a person’s 100th birthday. Many people whose CRB checks had always been ‘clean’, suddenly had to cope with unexpected old and/or minor convictions on their records.

 

The case that hit the headlines in January is known as T, a man who had received two police warnings in relation to two stolen bicycles in 2001, when he was 11 years old. In 2008, these were disclosed as part of his application to study Sports Science at university as he was required to work with children as part of the course. Although he ultimately managed to pursue the course, it took the intervention of solicitors on his behalf to persuade the University to accept him. The Court also considered the case of JB, which involved a woman who, in 2001 while in her early forties, was cautioned for shoplifting a packet of false nails. In 2010, an enhanced CRB check done as part of her application to work in the care sector revealed the caution. She was told that she would not be offered employment as “her criminal record rendered her inappropriate for work with vulnerable people”. She remains unemployed to this date and her view is that she would have made an excellent carer but for the single caution that she received more than ten years ago.  In their judgement, the Court of Appeal ruled that Government’s position of disclosing old and minor convictions infringes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life.

 

The current model

 

A primary goal of criminal records disclosure is protecting vulnerable groups, including children. The UK has a strict regime in this regard and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) already bars 44,598 people from working with children and 41,281 people from working with vulnerable adults whether in paid or voluntary roles. In 2010-11, over 14,000 people were added to each of these lists, based on various information sources, including criminal records. All convictions are always disclosed to the DBS for the purposes of barring decisions – the ultimate level of criminal records disclosure.

The criminal records system also benefits employers. For an increasing number of ‘sensitive’ roles (e.g. accountants, traffic wardens, social workers, managers in insurance and claims management) they can access DBS (CRB) checks when recruiting. These currently detail all convictions without a time limit. Whatever the role, under the revised Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), people’s convictions are considered ‘unspent’ for a period of between a year (fines) and forever (prison sentences over 4 years) during which they must disclose to any employer that asks.

 

The proposal – filtering

 

Unlock believes that the removal of ‘step-down’ has created an imbalance and a system of filtering old and minor convictions is required. Government statistics show that if someone goes between 2 and 3 years without a conviction, they are no more likely to re-offend than a person who has never offended. As time passes, criminal record information should move from being public to private data. Where people have proved they have desisted from crime over an extended period (longer than the ROA periods), convictions, cautions, warnings and reprimands should be automatically filtered out before DBS checks are passed to employers. This would improve employment chances (particularly in higher skilled work), reduce welfare costs and improve social mobility. With the ultimate goal of a purely evidence-based system, public confidence could be built by initially limiting the threshold to those with a smaller number of convictions, those who received more minor sentences and/or significantly old convictions. In any case, conviction data would remain permanently available to the police and courts as well as the barring service provided by the DBS.

 

The recent government proposal

 

Unlock broadly welcomes the recent announcements by Government to introduce provisions that would bring in a filtering mechanism.  Given the response we have received through our helpline since the Order was announced, it is clear that many people with convictions will benefit from the proposals, which would see some people with cautions, as well as some people with a single conviction, benefit from a filtering mechanism after a certain period of time.

 

However, we feel that the Government could have gone further with its proposals. Many of Unlock’s clients find themselves outside the scope of these proposals, and will continue to experience disproportionate difficulties in accessing employment. Some key points are listed below:

 

  1. The mechanism is limited to one conviction only. This fails to recognise how two identical cases may end up in court, one as one conviction only, one as multiple ‘charges’. One ‘sentencing event’ would seem to be a more sensible threshold.
  2. Such a ‘one conviction’ limit ignores the reality of the majority of petty offending committed by people, particularly when they are young, where they get dealt with by way of a small number of minor convictions. The example of Bob Ashford, prospective PCC candidate, is a perfect example of this discrepancy.
  3. The list of ‘specified offences’ (i.e. those exempt) includes some minor offences which are exempt from filtering which, given the level of disposal, should benefit from it, e.g. affray.
  4. Given custodial sentences are exempt from filtering, this leaves people with suspended prison sentences outside of scope, despite having received a ‘community sentence’ in practice. This will lead to confusion amongst people with convictions and employers alike. It also fails to recognise the discernable differences of the individual case which led to the court giving what is essentially a ‘community sentence’.

 

It is unlikely that the Order will be amended by Parliament given the processes involved for Statutory Instruments. As a result, Unlock supports the Order, and encourages both Houses to pass it into law.  However, we urge the Government to keep this policy under review, with the aim of examining the way in which this policy works in practice, particularly in relation to the above points, with a view to establishing an evidence-base that would support moving beyond the current ‘cautious’ approach.

 

 

Why Excluding People with Convictions Just Doesn’t Pay

Excluding People with Convictions Just Doesn’t Pay for Employers.

Bob Ashford speaking at BITC Event

Bob Ashford speaking at BITC Event

Earlier this week I spoke at an event organised by Business in the Community (BITC) as part of Responsible Business Week. The event, which was attended by CEOs, HR and other representatives of the commercial, public and voluntary sectors was aimed at sparking a debate about how to change employment practices and encourage more businesses  to employ people with criminal records.

I spoke about my own experiences and how my two offences as a 13-year old are still impacting upon my career choices. Throughout my career I have had to “tick the box” on application forms which acknowledges I have a criminal conviction, even though it was 46 years ago and is no longer on CRB/DBS records. The very process of doing so leads many employers then and now to immediately see the offence and not the individual and often the application goes no further. This is especially so on many online applications, where the very act of “ticking the box” electronically bars the applicant from completing the application form.

So what is the case for employing people with criminal convictions? I would argue it is in everyone’s interests to do so: the prospective employee, the employer and wider society.

Why should criminal convictions become a life sentence? Since I started Wipetheslateclean I have been staggered by the number of people who have contacted me because their lives have been blighted by criminal convictions, many of them committed long ago. Each case is a tragedy in itself of broken aspirations, shame, embarrassment and despair. Is it any surprise that reoffending rates following custody are over 70% when, faced with choices of a lifetime of rejection or the temptations of further offending many take the latter path. People with criminal convictions account for over 20% of the working age population – they are not some minority group, they are people like you and me who have made mistakes.

For employers, in excluding this group of people from employment they are immediately ignoring 20% of the population from their potential field of applicants. People with criminal records are like you and me with skills, qualifications, and a desire to put their abilties to good use. Many have been rebuffed by successive rejections, but once given the chance they will make dedicated and loyal employees. I would also argue that by the very nature of being an ex-offender the risk they pose is well known and documented. It is the other 80% of the population, many of who have similarly offended but have not been caught, who potentially pose an even greater risk.

As regards wider society, are we content to condone people with convictions to a life of rejection , living on benefits and potentially continuing to offend with the financial and social impact that has, or should we not truly support the notion of rehabilitation?

This is why we need to both wipe the slate clean for minor offences, and, when it comes to employment and other life opportunities, view people with criminal convictions  and who have stopped offending as individuals who have made mistakes and want to move on in their lives. BITC are leading a campaign to “Ban the Box” and rightly so. The idea is that in getting rid of the disclosure box on application forms prospective employers see the individual and their CV first, interview them and then ask for disclosure of convictions where relevant. At that point employers then complete an assessment as appropriate. The hugely reassuring aspect of the BITC event this week is the number of employers who are beginning to see the benefits to their organisations in following this approach. There are though still huge numbers who have yet to take this path. It’s up to all of us and to all our benefit to make this happen.