Coalition must stop minor criminal records ‘forcing people onto benefits’
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Unlock, a charity set up by people with convictions, is calling for changes to how the UK treats criminal record information.
As the polls open for the new Police and Crime Commissioners, the charity is backing a campaign led by former candidate Bob Ashford, who was forced to stand down due to having received a fine of £2 and 10 Shillings as a 13 year old in 1966.
The ‘wipe the slate clean’ campaign aims to highlight how criminal records blight entire lives. It asks whether every criminal conviction should be, in effect, a life sentence. It is also seeking a specific change in the PCC legislation so that candidates have to meet the same criminal records standards as MPs.
Bob Ashford said, “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.”
The campaign is launched as the European Court of Human Rights condemned the lack of scope for discretion in the UK’s criminal records disclosure system.
Government figures obtained by Unlock show the scale of the issue. There are now 9.2 million in the UK with criminal records on the Police National Computer, with one in three men having a criminal conviction by the age of 53. 26% of the 4.9 million open claims for benefit are made by people who have gained a conviction in the last 10 years.
Chris Bath, Unlock’s executive director said, “Under the current system, even the most minor childhood convictions are kept on record until a person’s 100th birthday. They will always be disclosed on a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. Evidence from our helpline for people with convictions shows that this is forcing people onto benefits. A change would benefit the tax-payer by reducing crime, increasing tax take and reducing benefits claims.”
Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974,will come into force in Spring 2013. These will reduce the periods that many people have to disclose their convictions for some jobs. However, jobs for which a CRB check is conducted will continue to bypass this legislation.
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