The Law Society Gazette – White paper promises ‘smarter’ sentencing to cut crime
In this article regarding the Government’s newly announced sentencing white paper, Christopher Stacey welcomed the proposals to reduce disclosure periods but highlighted the fact that around two-thirds of the 8,000 people every year who receive sentences of over four years would be excluded from the proposals.
Christopher said: ‘The risk of reoffending is consistently lower for those who have served longer sentences, and data on reoffending by index offence shows sexual and violent offences have lower rates of reoffending than many other categories. Exclusions by offence type risk creating unfairness and anomalies at the margins, further entrenching racial injustice and embedding the idea that some people are inherently incapable of rehabilitation. To genuinely support people striving to turn their lives around through work, all sentences of over four years should be capable of becoming ‘spent’ at some point.’
Prison philanthropist Edwina Grosvenor talks to Christopher Stacey
Prison philanthropist and prison reformer Edwina Grosvenor talks to Christopher Stacey as part of her Justice podcast series. They discuss how people often face stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record – long after they have served their sentence. Chris explains that in the UK, I in 6 people have criminal records and how the current system of criminal record checks isn’t fit for purpose – with information being shared with potential employers that isn’t relevant and with wide-spread employment practices are too often grounded in prejudice, causing significant harm to individuals trying to get on with their lives.
Unlock raises concerns as Charity Commission grants just six criminal conviction waivers
The Charity Commission has refused more than half of the applications it has received from people with criminal convictions who wish to serve as trustees or senior managers, prompting Unlock to call for a review.
In an article published on the Civil Society website, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said he was concerned about the low number of applications and high number of refusals, and has called on the Commission to publish an independent review on how it arrived on those decisions.
“It is concerning to see such low numbers of waiver applications and such a high proportion of refusals. We worked hard to help the Commission establish its waiver process so it would not undermine individual charity’s governance. These figures raise questions regarding the fairness and transparency of the waiver process.
“Waiver applicants have already demonstrated the value they can add to the charities they are looking to be involved in, and that the charity has considered the criminal record and put in place appropriate safeguards. We encourage the Commission to instigate and publish an independent review of the decisions it has made and how it arrived at those decisions.”
Unlock speaks to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about the launch of it’s #Fairchecks campaign
Together with the charity Transform Justice, Unlock has launched the #FairChecks movement to help push for a fresh start for the criminal records system.
In this programme, Woman’s Hour’s Jenni Murray, talks to two women who have experienced problems with having to disclose their criminal records and to Unlock’s Policy & Practice Lead, Rachel Tynan. Rachel explains the need for the #Fairchecks movement and how people can support the campaign.
Following the launch, Unlock’s Co-director, Christopher Stacey spoke to BBC Radio Kent about the #Fairchecks movement and the issues people face when having to declare their convictions.
Press and media coverage of the Supreme Court judgment
There has been a significant amount of press and media attention on the judgment of the Supreme Court which ruled that the criminal records disclosure scheme as it applies to multiple convictions and childhood warnings/reprimands was found to be disproportionate.
Our co-director, Christopher Stacey, gave interviews on the day of the judgment which were featured on BBC News at 10, Sky News, Channel 5, Radio 4, BBC Essex and LBC. You can listen again to Christopher speaking on Radio Kent (listen below, 1m 35s in) on how the ruling will help many thousands of people with old and minor convictions.
More coverage of the ruling. including quotes from Unlock, can also be found in the following publications
Unlock speaks to Radio 4’s Law in Action – Should having a past block a child’s future?
Unlock talks to Joshua Rozenberg about the issues affecting those who receive criminal convictions in childhood. They also discuss the impending result of the Government’s appeal to the Supreme Court against a Court of Appeal decision which ruled that the current system of people having to declare old and minor records is unnecessary, disproportionate and unfair.
Criminal record requests on application forms could be breaching GDPR
People Management has published an article that looks at a briefing recently published by Nacro that looks at data protection and the use of criminal offence data for employment and education purposes. We very much welcome the briefing by Nacro, which raises some important issues for employers.
Speaking to People Management, Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said:
“GDPR and the new Data Protection Act 2018 means employers that choose to ask applicants about criminal records will need to provide clear reasons and explain their legal basis for doing so. It is likely that asking about criminal records at application stage would be very difficult to justify in light of the recent enhancements in data protection. As one of the founding members of the Ban the Box campaign in the UK, Unlock encourages employers of all sizes and in every sector to sign up and remove criminal record questions from application forms.
“However, fair recruitment is about more than just removing a question. Employers are required to justify why they are asking about criminal records at any stage in the process, and we encourage employers to use this opportunity to think about whether they need to ask about criminal records at all and, if they do, how they manage the process so they don’t miss out on talented and qualified applicants with previous convictions. Proactive recruiters report that employees with convictions are more productive and more loyal than average. We have developed 10 principles of fair recruitment, in collaboration with business and government, and we will be publishing practical guidance for employers on data protection, GDPR and criminal records in the coming weeks.”
Almost three-quarters of applications for waivers from charity trustees or senior managers who face possible disqualification, have not yet been dealt with by the Charity Commission
New rules that disqualify people from being senior managers or trustees of charities if they have committed certain offences, will come into force on 1 August.
In an article published in Third Sector, Christopher Stacey comments on how Unlock, along with the criminal justice charities Clinks and the Prison Reform Trust, wrote to the Charity Commission in May to raise concerns about the implementation of the changes and the delays in processing waiver applications. The delays, however, continue.
Media coverage of the Supreme Court hearing
As a result of Unlock’s intervention at the Supreme Court in a landmark legal case on the criminal record disclosure regime, we have featured in the following media:
Unlock is an independent, award-winning national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence.
Unlock has intervened in the case, and we’ve been raising money to cover our legal costs. Supporting us now is a concrete way of standing up for people with old and minor convictions who are often silenced through the shame and stigma of their criminal record.
The Police Act 1997 created the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS – formerly the Criminal Records Bureau), which provides details of a job applicant’s previous convictions to prospective employers. For certain types of work, particularly work with children or vulnerable adults, the standard or enhanced certificates issued by the DBS used to list all the job applicant’s previous convictions.
However, in 2013, the Government amended this scheme following a Court of Appeal ruling (T v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester) to introduce a “filtering” process. Single convictions for non-violent, non-sexual offences that did not lead to a custodial sentence (including a suspended one) will be “filtered” (i.e. not disclosed) after 11 years (five-and-a-half years if the person was under 18 at the time of the offence).
The filtering process does not apply if a person has more than one conviction – regardless of the minor nature of the offences or the person’s circumstances at the time.
Forcing adults to admit to petty crime from their teen years is unfair and counter-productive
Following the release of the Justice Committee report into disclosure of youth criminal records, The Independent published a letter from Unlock’s Co-director, Christopher Stacey. In his letter Christopher, who gave evidence to the Committee, wrote:-
“Thousands of people contact ex-offenders charity Unlock every year because of problems they’re facing as a result of minor criminal records acquired in childhood and early adulthood.
The Justice Committee are right to recommend significant reforms to the way that youth criminal records are disclosed to employers later on in life. The report shows how the current approach is failing children and young people who get caught up in the criminal justice system. Their lives are being dogged by a minor criminal record for decades, often for life, which anchors people to their past.
Thousands of people contact us every year because of problems they’re facing as a result of minor criminal records acquired in childhood and early adulthood. There is now overwhelming evidence that the Government’s approach to criminal records disclosure needs to change. In the last year alone, there have been three significant reports that together set out the case for reforming the regime while maintaining public protection and safeguarding.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the current criminal records regime is blunt, disproportionate and not in accordance with the law. The Government is dragging its heels by appealing to the Supreme Court and it is clearly not listening to the compelling evidence that shows the significant and unnecessary barriers to rehabilitation that the current regime is creating.
The fact that someone still has to disclose 2 shoplifting offences from when they were 15, 40 years ago, shows that the Government needs to take immediate steps to respond to this problem.
It is common sense that, while certain offences need to be disclosed to employers, we should not be unnecessarily blighting the lives of people who are trying to move on by disclosing old, minor or irrelevant information that holds them back and stops them from reaching their potential.”
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