Responding to government plans to change the criminal records disclosure regime to address the Supreme Court judgment in the case of P and Others v SSHD & SSJ (the ruling on the filtering system and the disclosure of criminal records), Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:
“We welcome the government’s intention to fully comply with the Supreme Court ruling on filtering. 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. The changes announced today are a crucial first step towards achieving a fair system that takes a more balanced approach towards disclosing criminal records.
“However, 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. Reviews by the Law Commission, Justice Select Committee, Charlie Taylor and David Lammy MP have all stressed the need to look at the wider disclosure system. The government’s plan for jobs should include 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.”
On 30 January 2019, the Supreme Court directed the Government to fix the broken Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) system. Four claimants had challenged the blunt and punitive rules, that require them to disclose multiple offences, no matter how historic or minor, and to disclose cautions received in childhood. Every year about 25,000 youth cautions are disclosed in criminal record checks, around 75% of those cautions were for incidents that happened over 5 years ago.
The Court, agreeing with two lower courts whose judgments the Government had challenged, said the Government needed to fix the rules to allow people to move on from past mistakes.
This change affects spent convictions that may continue to be disclosed on standard and enhanced checks. It does not affect unspent convictions which will continue to be disclosed.
A Statutory Instrument is a way of amending existing law. It means changes can be made in a shorter timeframe than passing new primary legislation. The planned changes to the filtering rules are set out in Statutory Instruments relating to the Police Act 1997 and Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.
The Statutory Instrument’s remove the automatic disclosure of:
- youth cautions, reprimands and warnings (an out of court disposal issued to young offenders that were replaced by youth cautions in 2013); and
- all spent convictions where the individual has more than one conviction (except where disclosed under the other rules)
What will not change
Convictions resulting in a custodial or suspended sentence will still be disclosed.
Convictions or adult cautions for an offence that can ‘never be filtered’ will still be disclosed.
The time that must pass before filtering applies remains the same – 11 years for a conviction (5.5 years for convictions under the age of 18) and 6 years for adult cautions (youth cautions will no longer be disclosed).
In addition, enhanced criminal records certificates may also include any information which a chief officer of police reasonably believes to be relevant and in the chief officer’s opinion ought to be included in the certificate.
What does this mean for you?
It’s important to note that these changes are not yet law.
You will no longer have to disclose reprimands, final warnings or cautions received under the age of 18 on application forms for regulated jobs or university courses. These will no longer be disclosed on a standard or enhanced DBS certificate.
Multiple childhood convictions will be filtered after 5.5 years unless they are for a specified offence and did not result in a custodial or suspended sentence.
Multiple convictions acquired after the age of 18 will be filtered after 11 years, unless they are for a specified offence or resulted in a custodial or suspended sentence. Adult cautions have not changed.
Find out more about the impact of these planned changes.
- The government announcement can be found here.
- The letter to Unlock from Victoria Atkins explaining the changes
- Unlock’s response to the judgment on 30th January 2019, including case studies and a background to the case, is available here.
- More information about our policy work on the DBS filtering system is available here
- #FairChecks movement – calling for a fresh start for the criminal records system
- For interviews, contact Unlock’s spokesperson, Christopher Stacey, on 07557 676433 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unlock is an independent national charity that provides a voice and support for people who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence.