Skip to main content

Our mission is to support & advocate for people with criminal records to be able to move on positively in their lives. Find out more

Court delays are unfairly keeping young people anchored to their past

Unlock CEO Angela Cairns explains how a loophole in disclosure rules means the courts crisis is holding young people back

The courts have been under severe strain for years, with a growing backlog of cases even before the pandemic. As well as prolonging an already distressing process for victims and defendants, these delays also impact criminal records. Children who come into contact with the justice system are having to wait so long for their case to get to court, that they turn 18 before they are convicted. This means they can be subject to adult spending periods – for offences they committed as children.

The system supposedly recognises that young people deserve a fair chance to put mistakes made in childhood behind them – which is why spending periods for convictions received under 18 are shorter. But the current court backlog means that too many young people are denied this chance, because of delays they can’t control. With criminal barristers using their right to strike, this situation will only get worse.

We need a properly funded justice system that allows anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of the law to access a legal representative – who is properly paid for the vital work they do. We need urgent investment to reduce the court backlog, and we need to change the law so that anyone who is under 18 when they commit an offence is subject to the criminal record disclosure process for children not adults.

Fixing these urgent, immediate problems is just the start. We are calling for wider reform of the system, and the creation of a completely distinct approach to criminal records received as a child. The law must take account of age and maturity and allow young people to move on from mistakes made in childhood – rather than holding them back at what is a crucial stage in their lives.

Written by:

Angela is CEO of Unlock


Add Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

Do you need help & support with an issue you’re facing?

We provide support and advice for people in England and Wales who need guidance with either their own, or someone else’s, criminal record.

Please use the search box to start typing your issue. If you cannot find an answer to your problem then you’ll be given options to contact us directly.

Find out more about the helpline

We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now