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Help Unlock challenge the government’s criminal records regime

On Wednesday, we launched a CrowdJustice appeal to help us raise money to pay for our legal costs in intervening in the Supreme Court next month.

In June, the Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the Government which is arguing that their current approach to disclosing old and minor criminal record on standard and enhanced DBS checks, often decades later, is fair. We disagree. In fact, a criminal record that someone gets in their youth can, in effect, be a life sentence of stigma and discrimination.

This is the first time in our 18-year history that Unlock has intervened in a legal case. We want to do this because we think the case is vitally important. 


Please help us!  

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.

  • Donate £20, or any amount you can, at:
  • Share the link on Twitter, Facebook or with your colleagues and friends. You can use this post as a template:Someone who gets a minor criminal record in their youth shouldn’t pay for it for the rest of their lives. That’s why I’m supporting @unlockcharity’s appeal to raise money to challenge the government in the Supreme Court. Donate now here:


Why are we doing this?

Unlock has been granted permission by the Supreme Court to intervene in the case. We want to put forward strong arguments on behalf of everyone who is unfairly affected by the criminal records disclosure regime. We will make sure that the Supreme Court understands the importance of the issue, the failings of the current system, and how it could be changed for the better.

If we win, the Government will have to change the system of disclosing old and minor criminal records. This will give many thousands of people every year a fairer opportunity in applying for work or volunteering without the stigma and shame of having to disclose a mistake that they might have made decades earlier.

We need your help to make that happen. We’re raising money now to pay for the legal costs that will help us to do this. That’s why today we’ve launched this CrowdJustice appeal.

Please contribute whatever you can to help fund this vital case, and please share this page with family, friends and colleagues.


What’s the problem?

Cautions and convictions are disclosed on standard and enhanced DBS checks, even when they have become spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This is a problem for very many people; in 2015/16, more than 241,000 people had a caution or conviction included on an official disclosure from the DBS.

In the last 5 years alone, nearly half a million childhood convictions were disclosed that were from over 30 years ago from when the person was under 18. This represents almost half of all childhood convictions disclosed. Hundreds of thousands of people are being affected well into their 40’s as a result of mistakes they made when they were a child. 

We have all made mistakes and most of us have been fortunate enough not to be held back by them. But, not everyone is so lucky; where past mistakes are made in the sphere of criminal law they can – and do – haunt people for the rest of their lives. This can be the case even if the outcome at the time was just a ‘slap on the wrist’ from the police, such as a warning or a caution.

Take Michael (not his real name). When he was 17, Michael was convicted of theft of a coat from a market stall. He was fined £30. Ten months later, 23 days after turning 18, he was convicted of stealing a motor cycle and driving without insurance. He was fined £50 and sentenced to 24 hours at an attendance centre. That was 36 years ago; he’s come a long way since then. He’s now in his fifties. However, Michael’s long-forgotten past has come back to haunt him and he’s concerned about his work as a finance director. He could lose his job and a career that he’s worked hard for.

Then there’s Anita (not her real name). When she was 11, she was playing with a lighter in the girls’ bathroom at school and set a toilet roll alight causing around £100 of damage. She was arrested for Arson and told that the reprimand she was given would come off her record when she turned 19. Then after months of being bullied in secondary school, she was involved in a fight. She and the other pupil were both arrested for Actual Bodily Harm. She was encouraged by the police to accept a reprimand rather than challenge it in court and was told it would come off her record in five years. Now nearly in her thirties, she’s a qualified English teacher. However, not only was her record not removed like she was told it would be, but her two reprimands come up on enhanced DBS checks and will do under the current DBS rules for the rest of her life. The hopelessness of trying to find work has led her to working abroad and to bouts of depression and anxiety.

Under the current system, Michael & Anita’s criminal record will be disclosed for the rest of their lives. That’s what we’re trying to change.

It is time to stand up for people who are often silenced through the shame and stigma of their past. Donate now.

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

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