NIACRO call to make youth offending Off The Record

NIACRO, which works to reduce crime and its impact on people and communities, launched the ‘Off The Record’ campaign in The MAC on Wednesday with a short film featuring a range of high profile campaign supporters, including Falklands War veteran and charity activist Simon Weston and criminal records campaigner Bob Ashford – both of whom had to stand down as candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner roles due to convictions they had received as children.

‘Off The Record’ proposes that anyone should have the opportunity to apply to a multi-agency panel to have old and minor offences removed from their criminal or police record. The one condition would be that the offences must have occurred before the individual was 18 years old. The policy is based on a recommendation made in the 2011 Review of the Youth Justice System in Northern Ireland which has not yet been implemented.

Read the full article

Watch the Off the Record Video

Simon Weston and Bob Ashford working together

Simon Weston and Bob Ashford at Niacro conference

Simon Weston and Bob Ashford at Niacro conference

Wipetheslateclean welcomes Carlisle Report

Press Release

 

Wipetheslateclean

Campaign welcomes Peers and MP’s call to wipe the slate clean for young people’s criminal records

Bob Ashford founder of Wipetheslateclean today welcomed the publication of the Carlisle Report a review by a cross party group of MPs and members of the House of Lords which has recommended radical changes to the system of disclosure of criminal convictions by young people.

 

Bob Said:

“These disclosures (often of minor offences committed many years ago) can have a very negative on the employment and educational opportunities throughout young people’s lives when applying for jobs or educational opportunities. Many people are unaware that in accepting police cautions or receiving relatively minor convictions that these often have to be disclosed for the rest of people’s lives. When young people have made a positive decision to stop offending we should do all we can to rehabilitate them. A criminal record should not be a life sentence. I am delighted the aims of the campaign to wipetheslateclean have been recognised. What is needed now is action by the government to implement the recommendations”

 

Bob himself formed the campaign to Wipe the Slate Clean when he found himself barred from becoming a Police and Crime Commissioner in Avon and Somerset because of two minor convictions he committed 48 years ago. His resignation became nation news and in forming the campaign he has been supported by national charities including NACRO, NIACRO, Unlock 2000,User Voice, Business in the Community and the AYM.

 

The Report recommends:

We recommend a further amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 to

extend the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) filtering rules108

 regarding cautions

and convictions given to under-18s.109

 We propose the following revisions for under

18s, which should be made by the Home Office within the forthcoming two years:

– The above-mentioned time periods for the filtering of cautions and convictions for

under 18s should be reduced;

– Multiple convictions received by 18s should be permissible for filtering, providing

a specified period of time has elapsed since the last conviction;

– Convictions resulting in a custodial sentence should be filtered if the sentence

was 6 months or less; and

– Robbery and burglary offences that do not result in a custodial sentence should

be able to be filtered.

 

 

In the light of this report Bob is also calling for the Government to change the barring legislation for Police and Crime Commissioners to align itself with that of MP’s.

“It is ludicrous that I was and still am barred from becoming a Police and Crime Commissioner because of two offences I committed 48 years ago as a 13 year old. I can be an MP,  the Prime Minister but not a PCC. The barring legislation is recognised by all as a grave error and the government needs to change the legislation before the next election.”

 

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

MAgistrate – Winter 2013.

A Quiet Word About Cautions

Bob Ashford speaking at NIACRO event at Stormont.

Bob Ashford speaking at NIACRO event at Stormont.

Since I resigned as a Police and Crime Commissioner candidate and established Wipetheslateclean, I have been surprised by the number of people who have contacted me through the website. Many of these are individuals whose lives have been blighted by previous convictions -often committed many years ago like my own.

One very striking issue that has come through  is from people who have received police cautions. Many people do not realise that when they accept a police caution, that the cautions will then be disclosed on standard and enhanced CRB/DBS checks when they apply for jobs.

The caution can have the same impact as a criminal conviction and can lead to exclusion from employment and other paths such as fostering/adoption etc. In some cases, when individuals have been asked, at interview or on application forms, whether they have criminal convictions they have answered “no,” only for the disclosures to then come through listing cautions. Because of this job offers have been withdrawn.

quoteService men and women who have accepted an informal reprimand from their commanding officer rather than a court martial find themselves in the same position. Non-British nationals serving in our armed forces have also found their applications for citizenship blocked when leaving those forces.

The same issue comes through when people receive other out of court disposals such as Restorative Justice Interventions and Fixed Penalty Notices etc. Again, while these are not criminal convictions they will be included on CRB/DBS disclosures. There is a right of appeal for individuals against inclusion but the post bag indicates many of these fall on deaf ears.

Many police forces have clear procedures to be followed when delivering cautions and other out of court disposals but practice indicates these are not being adhered to. I am also convinced many police officers are unaware of the lifetime implications of cautions when they deliver them. It’s unfortunate but understandable that when people are arrested and offered the opportunity to get out of the police station they opt for a caution without realising the full implications:

“I was told that if I accepted a caution it would all be over- I could leave and the thing would all be forgotten about. I had no idea when I applied for my next job that this would be with me for the rest of my life”

The government’s changes to the ROA are welcome but as an earlier article from UNLOCK  points out they do not go far enough. Coupled with this is the potential rise in the number of out of court disposals such as conditional cautions, following the introduction of the Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), all of which I support. The result though, unless there are changes to the system of delivery of these disposals, will be far more people, who find themselves with life sentences for minor misdemeanours. This will particularly affect those who have received more than one such disposal.

That’s why Wipetheslateclean is calling for:

  • The Home Office and ACPO to review the delivery of all out of court disposals and ensure both recipients and police officers are fully aware of the impact of such disposals.
  • The Ministry of Defence to carry out a similar review across the armed forces.
  • For defence solicitors, appropriate adults and parents of young people to be made aware of the full implications of cautions and advocate more strongly for young people and adults at the point of arrest.

Bob Ashford

 

To The Right Honourable Theresa May Home Secretary

To The Right Honourable Theresa May Home Secretary

Dear Home Secretary,

I received a response from Damian Green to my letter of 4th October on 30th December 2012. I am unhappy with the response from the Minister and would like you to consider and reply to the following comments.

The letter states what the Government has done but not what it intends to do. In the Home Affairs Select Committee in December, the Prisons Minster, Jeremy Wright, in response to a question from Jeremy Corbyn MP on the PCC barring legislation said, “this was something the government needed to look at again”. Is this still the case? If so, when will it be looked at, especially now in light of the points in the penultimate paragraph of this letter?

In paragraph four of the government’s response the Minister says: “I can understand how disappointing it must be to have to resign from the PCC candidacy however the Government feels that the nature of this role requires the highest standard of character- similar to that to which a police officer would be held.”

I find this both insulting and disingenuous. To imply that after a successful and blameless career working with young people in trouble in the care and criminal justice systems that I am not of “the highest standard of character” is to condemn everyone with a criminal conviction, no matter how trivial the offence and no matter how long ago it was committed. How does this fit with the Governments rhetoric on the “rehabilitation revolution?”

In looking at recruitment practices for police forces it is clear that these decisions are made locally, as is proper. It’s also clear there must be a difference between someone applying to be a police officer (usually in their early 20s) who holds a criminal conviction committed within the past few years and someone like myself whose offence was committed 46 years ago as a 13 year old. It is also a fact that there are hundreds if not thousands of serving police officers who have been found guilty of imprisonable offences and still continue to serve as officers.

Why when the Home Office has advertised recently for Independent Police Complaints Commissioners, the people who will oversee complaints against the Police and Police and Crime Commissioners, has the barring standard been set at a lower level? It does seem odd that people who have to judge the actions of Chief Constables and PCCs should be judged themselves by a different set of standards.

These arguments have now found support from the Court of Appeal and Lord Dyson in the “T” case. This concerns a 21 year old who had to disclose police cautions received when he was an 11 year old. Lord Dyson has said this is not compatible with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a private and family life. A full judgement is expected this week but almost certainly will require further legislation. This is excellent news for those who have criminal convictions (over 30% of adult males) and who have found their lives blighted and stigmatised by convictions when they were young for the rest of their lives.

I would welcome your responses to these points, and, in particular, I would like to know what action the Government will be taking in response to the Appeal Court Judgement. I would also welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues.

Yours sincerely

Bob Ashford

Founder Wipetheslateclean

 

 

 

Court of Appeal – Blanket Criminal Records System Incompatible with Right to Privacy

Press Release from Liberty 25th January

Today the Court of Appeal revealed it has concluded the system of criminal records checks, which requires automatic disclosure of all convictions and cautions to certain employers, regardless of their relevance to the job in question, is incompatible with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a private and family life. It circulated a draft judgment to that effect in December in the case of ‘T’, but the Court’s conclusion had not been revealed publicly until today.  

For the full press release go to Liberty

BBC Politics West Interview with Bob Ashford

BBC Politics West Interview with Bob Ashford on the wipetheslateclean campaign, broadcast on Sunday 13th January 2013

 

Association of Youth Offending Team Managers support Wipetheslateclean

Today the  Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) signed up in support of the Wipetheslateclean campaign. Interim Chair of AYM, Gareth Jones said,

“The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) is pleased to support the Wipetheslateclean campaign launched by Bob Ashford, former YOT Manager and Director at the Youth Justice Board. It is absurd that Bob was forced to stand down as a Police & Crime Commissioner candidate in the recent election campaign due to a minor conviction he received over 30 years ago as a youth for which he was fined £5.”

Bob Ashford said, “I am really pleased that the AYM have agreed to support this important campaign. As a previous YOT manager myself and someone involved in the youth justice for many years it wasn’t until I was forced to resign and was deluged with e mails from other people whose lives had been blighted by criminal records that I realised the full extent of the damage that can be caused by the current systems and policies. With the support of AYM and other organisations I believe we can make a real difference to what is an extremely confusing, complex and un-coordinated area of the CJS.”

Gareth Jones went on to say, “The AYM supports the principle that young people and adults who have committed offences should not be damaged throughout their lives by a criminal record. Having accepted responsibility for their actions, they should be allowed to fulfil their potential and play a full and productive part in society. It’s a social and economic tragedy that we spend billions each year on criminal justice but then prevent people who turn their lives around from working and paying taxes.”