We’ve been providing advice and support to people with criminal records for over 20 years, supporting thousands of people each year. Listening every day to the barriers people are facing, our team often notice the same problems coming up again and again. We can provide advice and support to each individual who contacts us, but we’re also determined to drive lasting change that will benefit everyone who has a criminal record and simply wants to move on.
Today we’re publishing our policy manifesto, which sets out the key systemic changes we want to see. It has been created through our ‘ear to the ground, voice at the top’ approach; taking the problems we hear about every day and translating them into demands for legislative change.
The criminal record system is sprawling, complex and presents many different problems and barriers, which are experienced differently by different people. While we can’t address all of these problems and the solutions in a single paper, we’re calling for over-arching change in three key areas:
A fair and proportionate system
- There should be no lifelong impact of a criminal record, without the opportunity for review and appeal. Every sentence should have the potential to become spent during a person’s lifetime, and everyone should be allowed to make the case that they have moved on.
- Impacts should be proportionate to the offence and severity of sentence imposed. The disproportionate and unfair impacts of additional orders and multiple convictions should end.
- The impact of a criminal record should reflect someone’s age and maturity level. We need a distinct system for criminal records acquired in childhood, and we must close the loophole that subjects young people to adult disclosure periods for offences they committed as children, because of court delays beyond their control.
An effective system in practice
- There must be legal protection against unnecessary or inappropriate disclosure. This means penalties for employers and organisations who breach the rules, an effective appeal and review process, and restrictions so employers can only ask for information they are permitted to use.
- We need to encourage good practice. Government can lead the way by requiring all contractors to have fair recruitment policies. We could also offer companies financial incentives for taking a positive approach to people with criminal records.
A clear and transparent system
- We need clarity about what is part of a criminal record and when it has to be disclosed. We can do this by making the names of different levels of checks clearer, and related to their purpose. The legislative framework around criminal records must be streamlined, and anyone accused of a crime should be given clear and accurate information about what a criminal record means.
- Anyone should be able to see what’s on their own criminal record. This should be free, available at any time and clarify what will be disclosed on each level of check.
These are common sense changes, and we believe they’re achievable. We won’t stop until people with criminal records can live their lives free from prejudice, stigma and discrimination.
Learn more about this topic
- New research shines a light on the complex landscape of University criminal records policies
- Four bills currently going through parliament – and what they could mean for you
- Double your impact this week with the Big Give
- The Autumn Statement 2023 is a missed opportunity to support people with criminal records
- New research highlights discrimination against people with criminal records in labour market
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