Criminal Records: Disclosure of Information

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 28th June 2021.

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Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Labour, Brent Central

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department takes to support people with minor offenses on their record received when they were a minor; and whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of changing the system of automatic revelation of past convictions.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We are committed to supporting children in turning their lives around and recognise that having a criminal record can have a significant impact on children, and adults that offended as a child. Youth criminal records are treated differently to adult criminal records in terms of disclosure, as those with convictions received when under 18 are generally disclosed for a shorter period than those of adults.

There have recently been significant reforms in this area:

In November 2020, the Government implemented legislation to change the rules governing disclosure for sensitive roles (those working with children, vulnerable adults or in a position of public trust). This removed the disclosure of youth cautions, reprimands and warnings and the multiple conviction rule. Previously, if an individual had more than one conviction, each conviction had to be disclosed on standard or enhanced certificates irrespective of the nature of the offences or the time separating them. This legislation removed that requirement and will particularly benefit those with childhood cautions who have moved away from their past.

We are also proposing further changes to help those who committed minor offences as children to move on with their lives. The Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently in Commons committee stage, proposes significant reductions to rehabilitation periods (the length of time that someone needs to disclose their criminal record for general purposes) for custodial sentences of under four years and community sentences, including for childhood convictions.

These significant changes to the criminal records disclosure regime will support those who have not committed serious offences and have ceased offending, bettering their chance of accessing employment and reducing their likelihood of reoffending.

Regarding the rules surrounding automatic disclosure of past convictions, we have considered whether a sealing/review mechanism for youth criminal records disclosure would be desirable. However, the Justice Committee (report into Youth Justice) in 2017 recognised that introducing a mechanism whereby records could become ‘sealed’ would create unsustainable pressures on the decision-making body and found that an automatic filtering system should be retained, albeit with substantial revisions. This aligns with the 2019 Supreme Court ruling on aspects of the disclosure regime, in which the Court was clear that such a mechanism was not necessary for a proportionate system. We are therefore not pursuing proposals on sealing criminal records by application, rather focusing on the rules which determine criminal records and their disclosure.

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