Our outdated criminal records regime is holding hundreds of thousands of people back from participating fully in society. Even a minor criminal history can produce lifelong barriers to employment, volunteering, housing and even travelling abroad, many years after people have moved on from their past. The system needs to change.
FairChecks – run by Unlock and Transform Justice – is calling for an overhaul of the criminal records system, which currently leaves too many people unfairly anchored to their past. We have three key asks:
Remove criminal records for cautions
Cautions are used for minor offences like graffiti or shoplifting that are better resolved without going to court. Many people accept cautions without realising they carry a criminal record, and will continue to show up on standard and enhanced DBS checks for years. The government’s new system for cautions will mean people have to tell employers about a caution for three months after accepting it. This will blight the job prospects of thousands more people who will have to reveal a minor offence.
Wipe the slate clean for childhood offences
Childhood criminal records often follow people into adulthood, hampering their efforts to find work or pursue further study. Everyone deserves the opportunity to start their adult life without past mistakes continuing to haunt them. All minor offences should be automatically removed from young people’s records at 18 and there should be an opportunity for more serious offences to be wiped from the record through a review process.
Stop forcing people to reveal short prison sentences
Around 10,000 people each year receive a prison sentence of less than one month. After a certain period, a short prison sentence no longer appears on a basic criminal record check. But lots of jobs require more detailed enhanced checks. Anyone who has served a prison sentence, even for just one day, or been given a suspended prison sentence must reveal this to employers forever if they want to work in the NHS, social services, and many other jobs.