MoJ rejects call for urgent review of youth criminal records system

By Neil Puffett

| 01 February 2018

The government has dismissed calls from an influential group of MPs for an urgent review of the youth criminal records system to take place.

The justice committee has called for an urgent review of the youth criminal records system. Picture: Becky Nixon

A report published by the justice select committee in October argued that the current system for disclosure of youth criminal records has an adverse impact on access to employment, education, housing, insurance, travel visas and also undermines the principles of the youth justice system.

But in its formal response to the report, published today, the government said it will not consider changes to the current system until a legal challenge it is making to overturn a Court of Appeal judgment has been heard.

The Court of Appeal ruled in May 2017 that the criminal records disclosure scheme was "disproportionate and unlawful", but government has been granted permission to appeal the ruling, and a hearing before the Supreme Court is expected in June 2018.

The justice committee had wanted an urgent review of the system to take place "with regard in particular to mitigating its well-evidenced adverse impact on individuals with youth criminal records".

It said youth rehabilitation orders, a community sentence used for the majority of young offenders, should be erased on the last day of the order, rather than six-months after that date.

The committee also called for detention and training orders (DTOs), which are custodial sentences for 12- to 17-year-olds, to be considered "spent" six months after the sentence has been completed.

"The committee makes a number of recommendations and conclusions relating to the legislation which governs the filtering of convictions and cautions from criminal records certificates," the government response states.

"The government notes these recommendations and the committee's concerns. However, against the backdrop of the litigation, the government believes that it is appropriate to consider these recommendations in conjunction with an authoritative judgment of the Supreme Court.

"The government believes the current disclosure arrangements, including rehabilitation periods and the filtering system, to be proportionate and strike the right balance between protecting the public and individuals' right to privacy."

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, after a specified period, which varies according to the disposal administered or sentence passed, convictions and cautions become "spent", and no longer have to be disclosed to potential employers.

The rehabilitation period that applies to a conviction will depend on the seriousness of the offence and the age of the offender at the time they received a conviction or caution.

Prior to 2013, all convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings, spent or otherwise, had to be disclosed on a standard or enhanced criminal record certificate. But, in response to a Court of Appeal judgment, in May 2013 the government amended the law so that certain old and minor convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings are protected from disclosure and no longer automatically subject to routine disclosure - so they are effectively "filtered" out from certificates.

For under-18s at the date of the conviction, that conviction may be filtered after 5.5 years, or a caution may be filtered after two years.

However, a conviction cannot be filtered from a standard or enhanced certificate if a person was convicted of any other offence at any time, or the person was sentenced to custody in respect of the conviction, or was a sexual or serious violence offence.

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