This October we took to the House of Lords, armed with one Minister and two Lords, to launch the Unlock Criminal Record Disclosure Calculator. It’s a new online tool to help people determine when their conviction will be ‘spent’.
The Rt Hon Lord McNally – Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice; Lord Navnit Dholakia OBE PC DL; and Unlock President, Lord David Ramsbotham GCB CBE , congregated with Unlock staff, volunteers and members, plus insurers, barristers and more for the highlight of our year.
Opening the meeting, Unlock called for a “right of access to a normal life for reformed offenders” which isn’t currently available under the ROA.
Christopher Stacey of Unlock explained how the calculator can be used to determine when a conviction will become “spent” under the ROA. Stacey said: “Currently the ROA is very complicated, so we need a calculator that’s easy to update in response to any changes. It’s been developed with our members and feedback from various organisations, supported by a grant from Persula Foundation”.
Members echoed the sentiments and welcomed the new calculator: “It’s so simple to use and you don’t have to worry talking to people, where they might judge you on a past offence. You can use it in the comfort of your own home. And it’s free too.” said an Unlock member.
Closing the meeting Lord McNally congratulated the work. His speech is provided below to give you an insight into what the Government has to say about your least favourite law.
Further feedback on the calculator has also been positive with news of its launch sweeping across various online social networks. To use it is simple. You just need to register with an email and some brief personal details such as your DOB, gather and enter information pertaining to your conviction, sentence or disposal received and agree to the terms and conditions.
The calculator is sponsored by online insurance providers homeprotect whose website is at www.homeprotect.co.uk. To find out when your conviction will be spent visit www.disclosurecalculator.org.uk to try it out for yourself.
Speech by Lord McNally
“I would like to congratulate UNLOCK on achieving what some previously considered impossible. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is a complex but important piece of legislation that can have a significant impact on many people’s lives. It is crucial therefore that it can be understood. The introduction of the UNLOCK criminal disclosure calculator helps to break down these complexities and through this simple tool, individuals will be able to find out what the ROA and their conviction means to them.
The Government understands that the ROA may be difficult to understand for the lay person and that on occasion, incorrect information is given by individuals who are asked about their criminal record history. This could prevent the ROA from achieving one of its aims of improving access to employment for reformed offenders.
When an employer asks a reformed offender if they have any previous convictions, the reformed offender does not generally want to hide his conviction in an attempt to deceive. Through correspondence with offenders, we know that what they actually want is a fair chance at getting a job and to be honest with their future employer. However, through hearing about yours and others experience this is easier said than done.
Because ordinary citizens might find it difficult to apply the ROA to their particular situation, it is not wholly surprising that some reformed offenders are confused about what they can and can’t conceal. This confusion can result in a reformed offender inadvertently misleading an employer about their criminal record.
In some instances, individuals fail to disclose information that they should because they believe their conviction to be spent when it is in fact not. If and when an employer learns of the conviction, not only are they dealing with a previous offender, but in their mind they are dealing with someone who has lied about their past. It is very difficult for that individual to justify why he failed to reveal his conviction.
Alternatively, through fear of this happening, individuals often reveal information when they don’t have to. They don’t realise that a conviction is spent, or aren’t sure, and so tell their employer and can be penalised for their honesty. Once the information is known, it is very hard for the individual to persuade a prospective employer that it is not relevant because the conviction is spent. We all know it would be hard to forget such information, even if it is completely irrelevant.
Neither situation seems fair, but we know, through working with organisations such as UNLOCK, that both do occur.
This unfairness and confusion is, of course, undesirable. The ROA is designed to improve the chances of ex-offenders finding employment; employment reduces the likelihood of someone being an offender. The benefits of assisting offenders into work are therefore plain to see.
One of the obstacles to achieving this has today been broken down. The launch of UNLOCK’s disclosure calculator helps both individuals and employers to understand when a conviction is spent and so helps the ROA achieve an important aim.
No single act will remove all the barriers faced by an ex-offender seeking to reintegrate into society. One, simple step however is to tackle the prejudices that exist around employing ex-offenders, regardless of whether an individual has a spent conviction or not. We are working to improve employers’ and members of the public’s understanding of criminal records, and why most individuals with convictions a long time in their past should be considered equally with those with no convictions. Guidance being developed and provided by UNLOCK and across Government will go some way towards this.
I hope that the hard work of UNLOCK will continue and that through that work, together we can remove some of the unnecessary obstacles faced by offenders who want to lead normal, law abiding lives. Part of that is improving individual’s understanding of the ROA. I am sure you will all agree with me that the launch of this calculator marks a significant step towards achieving that aim.”