Campaigners urge government action on disclosure of youth cautions


Human rights campaigners have called on the government to act on a Supreme Court ruling made a year ago over the disclosure of youth cautions.

Current laws regarding DBS checks were ruled unlawful. Picture: Disclosure and Barring Service
Current laws regarding DBS checks were ruled unlawful. Picture: Disclosure and Barring Service

In January last year, the court said that Disclosure and Barring Service rules over cautions received in childhood and rules surrounding multiple offences are unlawful.

Four claimants had challenged the rules including one, known as G, whose case was brought by charity Just for Kids Law.

Aged 13, G received two reprimands - now known as youth cautions. In 2011, he lost his job as a library assistant after enhanced DBS checks were required, which would have flagged the reprimand. Since then, he has felt unable to apply for jobs where enhanced checks are needed.

These reprimands appear on standard and enhanced DBS checks until he is 100 years old, under current law.

Experts estimate that more than a million youth criminal records relating to offences more than 30 years old were disclosed by this means in the last five years.

Just for Kids Law argued that reprimands are designed as a rehabilitative measure, and not a punishment for life.

The Supreme Court found that disclosing such reprimands to employers is directly contradictory to their purpose. 

Campaign groups, including Just for Kids Law and Liberty, are now calling on the government to “fix the broken system”.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of Just for Kids Law, said: “There is no excuse for the delay in implementing the landmark judgment.

“Every year about 25,000 youth cautions are disclosed in criminal record checks, most of which are for incidents that happened over five years ago. All these people are being unlawfully stigmatised by the government dragging its feet and failing to change the law. It must now act immediately to ensure no child who is given a caution ends up with a lifelong criminal record that robs them of the chance to be fully rehabilitated.”

Sam Grant, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, added: “It is a disgrace that after years of failed wrangling in the courts, the government continues to drag its feet and refuses to fix a clearly broken system.

“A blunt bureaucratic system continues to subject people to unfair treatment for mistakes they made long ago. If you make a few mistakes, you should be able to move on without it tarnishing you for the rest of your life. The government must finally put this right.”

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.

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