Unlock, a national independent advocacy charity for people facing obstacles, stigma and discrimination because of their criminal record, welcomes changes to the rules on criminal record disclosure which come into effect today.
The changes are simple; for jobs and voluntary roles that involve a standard or enhanced criminal record check issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service, childhood cautions will no longer be disclosed, and a rule that meant someone with more than one conviction had all their convictions disclosed, regardless of offence or length of time, has been abolished. For people who have been held back from employment and volunteering to help others because of mistakes they made years ago, the impact will be life changing.
According to Home Office data, these changes mean around 45,000 people a year will now have a clear standard or enhanced DBS check. One in five people who under the old rules would have had their criminal records disclosed, will now have a clear certificate. Clearly this shows that we still have a long way to go; we hope to see further reforms that allow more people to leave their past behind.
These changes come as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in January 2019. Unlock intervened in that vital case because we know thousands of people are unnecessarily anchored to their past due to an arbitrary regime which forces the disclosure of old and irrelevant information. Until now, about 25,000 childhood cautions were disclosed in criminal record checks every year, most of which were for incidents that happened over five years ago. These changes will end the disclosure of childhood cautions.
Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said: “Today is a momentous day for thousands of people with old and minor criminal records. The stigma and embarrassment of a criminal record means many people simply don’t apply for jobs or voluntary roles that would require them to disclose it. It’s a toxic form of punishment to keep punishing people forever and far too many are unnecessarily anchored to their past as a result.
“Many people have been waiting years for the government to change the law so that minor convictions and childhood cautions no longer show up on higher level DBS checks. Finally, today is the day when that injustice ends and many thousands of people will be free of their past when applying for roles that they are skilled and qualified to do. But we cannot forget those that are left behind.
“We are still left with a criminal records system where many people with old and minor criminal records are shut out of jobs that they are qualified to do, because of a mistake they made years ago. At a time when we’re facing significant economic uncertainty, people with criminal records are finding it harder than ever to find work. The government must commit to a wider review of the criminal records disclosure system to ensure all law-abiding people with criminal records are able to move on into employment and contribute to our economic recovery.”
Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty said: “We all want a criminal justice system that treats us with humanity, and allows people to move on from mistakes. For too long a blunt and bureaucratic system has meant that if you made mistakes in your past, you were prevented from moving on.
“The Government had to be taken to the highest court, then took nearly two years to accept it had lost, but this injustice will finally be fixed. This case shows that through bravery and persistence a few individuals can use our legal system to stand up to power and obtain justice that will help countless people in similar situations.”
Jennifer Twite, Head of Strategic Litigation at Just for Kids Law, said: “We are delighted to see that common sense has prevailed as thousands of people will no longer be forced to disclose stigmatising childhood cautions or minor convictions when they’re applying for jobs for years later.
“Most people who get cautioned as a child assume that this won’t be something that will stop them from getting jobs as an adult and it has been heart-breaking seeing the impact on them and their families when they realise that a childhood mistake will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Today’s changes to the rules on criminal disclosure will allow so many young people we work with to move past their old mistakes and feel that they can meaningfully contribute to society.”
It is important that both individuals with a criminal record and employers understand the impact of these changes. That’s why we’ve published updated guidance for both individuals and employers.