Open letter to Ministers Victoria Atkins and Chris Philp

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Back in July, the government responded to a Supreme Court ruling from January 2019, requiring changes to the filtering system. This week these changes have finally gone through parliament – but we have learned that there will be a delay of several months before they are signed into law, ostensibly due to time needed for the DBS to prepare their systems. Together with Liberty and Just for Kids Law, today we publish the below letter sent yesterday to the ministers responsible:

Dear Ministers   

Re: Timetable for implementing response to the Supreme Court judgment: [2019] UKSC 3

As organisations involved in the above Supreme Court case on criminal records, we are writing to seek urgent clarification on the timetable for implementing the changes that the ruling required. 

This week Parliament approved two statutory instruments that the government had laid to amend the rules for criminal record disclosure, following the ruling of the Supreme Court ruling in January of 2019. These two simple changes will put an end to the disclosure of childhood cautions and will also end the automatic disclosure of multiple convictions as a result of the so-called ‘multiple conviction’ rule being abolished. The Home Office’s own analysis shows that, taken together, these two changes will help around 45,000 people per year to have a fresh start by having clear standard or enhanced DBS checks.  

However, these changes have yet to become law. We are deeply concerned at the potential for the changes to still not come into force for several months, as the Minister stated a “hope” for them to be “finalised by the end of the year.” This delay is simply intolerable, and we urge you, as Ministers with direct responsibility for delivering on the two respective Statutory Instruments, to take firm action.   

Given the amount of time that has passed since the Supreme Court ruling, we are concerned by the latest hold up. The verdict that drove the changes was delivered in January of 2019This has given the Government ample time, at least 20 months, to make preparations. These are also not complex changes; they are minor updates to an existing rules-based system. 

Across England and Wales thousands of people are still being impacted each month by the current filtering rules. According to Home Office figures, over 45,000 people per year would not disclose any criminal offences under the new rules, but they will continue to do so until the new rules take effect. 120 people each day – 3,750 a month – are having their professional futures jeopardised by a disclosure regime which was described by the Supreme Court as having elements that were capricious, disproportionate and perverse. Many more will be putting their career plans on hold, waiting for the changes to come into effect before seeking employment – because of the stigma they know they will face if their criminal record is disclosed.  

It is critically important that the Home Office and Ministry of Justice are seen to respect the Supreme Court’s judgement. It reflects very poorly on the Government when it shows conspicuously little interest in realising the changes that have been ordered, and an indifference to the ongoing injustice.  

As three organisations who hear every day from people impacted by this system, Unlock, Liberty and Just for Kids Law strongly urge the Ministers to provide the necessary leadership to ensure that the Supreme Court’s decision is implemented immediately. We also urge you to investigate the cause of this delay, and reassure the public that your departments have not made any attempts to frustrate or undermine the Court’s ruling. Everyone deserves the opportunity of a fresh start.  

We look forward to your reply.  

Yours sincerely, 

Christopher Stacey – Co-director, Unlock

Enver Solomon – CEO, Just for Kids Law

Martha Spurrier – Director, Liberty

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