The British Supreme Court has ruled that two aspects of the criminal records disclosure scheme are disproportionate and unfair, paving the way for changes tot he system.
Until now, blanket rules required the automatic disclosure of all convictions where a person has more than one conviction, and the requirement that some childhood cautions be disclosed indefinitely.
However, this has now been found to be in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock – a charity for people with convictions – said: “This is an important ruling which stands to affect many thousands of people with old and minor criminal records who have been unnecessarily anchored to their past.
“Today is a crucial step towards achieving a fair and proportionate filtering system that takes a more calibrated and targeted approach towards disclosing criminal records.”
In the last 5 years, over 1 million youth criminal records were disclosed on standard or enhanced criminal record checks that related to offences from more than 30 years’ ago.
“The current system has multiple, harsh consequences which can have damaging effects on individuals. While certain offences clearly should be disclosed to employers, it is plain common sense that a fair system should not unnecessarily blight the lives of people who are trying to get on in life by disclosing old, minor and irrelevant information which holds them back and stops them from reaching their potential,” he said.
The court described the rule for disclosing multiple convictions and its impact on individuals as ‘capricious’ and the inclusion of youth warnings and reprimands in the disclosure regime as a ‘category error’ and an ‘error of principle’.
Enver Solmon, CEO of Just for Kids Law, said: “Our client should never have been given a criminal record that stays with him for life. The judgement makes clear that the disclosure of reprimands and cautions, the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist, is disproportionate and damaging to the future rehabilitation of children preventing them from moving on from their past.
"A parliamentary inquiry reached the same conclusion nearly two years ago when it stated that children were being unfairly denied a second chance. There is now an overwhelming view shared by the higher courts and MPs that the government should act immediately to ensure no child who is given a caution ends up with a criminal record that stigmatises them for life. The government should also now conduct a wide-ranging review of the entire criminal records disclosure regime for children and and young people.”
Corey Stoughton, Advocacy Director of Liberty, said: “P made a mistake a long time ago and has been unfairly punished ever since. Using overly broad bureaucratic rules that deny people meaningful careers by forcing them to carry a scarlet letter for life is both cruel and pointless”
“Today’s court decision holds the promise of a fresh start for thousands of people who deserve a second chance. The government must finally reform this arbitrary scheme.”