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Unlock responds to the Ministry of Justice sentencing white paper

Unlock have today published our full response to the government’s recent white paper proposing amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Read our full response here

After many years of campaigning for real reforms, the MoJ white paper is a frustrating read both for Unlock and for anyone who is concerned about criminal records.

The white paper does propose that disclosure periods should generally be reduced, and Unlock certainly support these measures. We also support the MoJ’s goal to improve employment prospects and reduce discrimination.

However, we believe that the proposed changes are fundamentally limited. They do not even apply to everyone who has served a custodial sentence, let alone the hundreds of thousands each year who are given a fine.

Most importantly, the proposals do not consider whether criminal records disclosure is actually a useful approach, or whether it offers any positive sides at all. The MoJ just assume that disclosure does something of value and only set out to make small adjustments without asking if a wholly different approach would deliver better results.

In 2012, the government of the day looked at criminal record disclosure and promised “radical” reforms in their “Breaking the cycle” white paper, but they did not make any structural changes and as a result the gains never materialized. Today’s MoJ are making the same mistakes; tweaking the numbers instead of looking at deeper issues.

Unlock does believe that the reductions to spending periods will be positive, but we also believe that this alone is not enough to make a real difference. As long as all people with criminal records are required to disclose their convictions once they have served their sentence, there will always be a substantial level of discrimination. Shortening the length of discrimination is positive, but all people who receive a criminal record will still suffer from it.

In our response, Unlock urge the MoJ to consider a more substantial package of reforms which will enable people with criminal records to live a normal life after they have served their sentence.

Unlock also encourage all of our supporters to contact their MP and the MoJ and put the case for more significant change. It is critical that this opportunity for change does not fall victim to a lack of vision and ambition. This may well be a once in a generation opportunity to make real change to the ROA, and it is critical that we push for as much change as possible.

Unlock want to hear from anyone that the MoJ have excluded from their changes – particularly those who’s convictions will still never become spent. Click here to tell us your story, and help us build the case for reform.

Read our other posts about the white paper


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Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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