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Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner welcomes House of Commons Report

27th October 2017

Members of Parliament who serve on the Justice Committee in the House of Commons have today produced a report that has found the current system for disclosure of youth criminal records undermines the principles of the youth justice system and that the current system fall short of the UK’s obligation under the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.

Crimes committed by a young person can often affect their life chances as they grow older.  Simple minor, non-serious mistakes as a teenager can follow a person around for decades.  The government’s primary objective in youth justice is to stop people being drawn into crime, but this is often undermined by the current disclosure regime.

The committee have made a number of recommendations that Dame Vera Baird is supporting.

Dame Vera said “I often hear of people who have applied for jobs as adults, being denied opportunities because their DBS check has revealed something minor they did when they were a child.  Many of these crimes are petty and should never hinder a person’s life chances, I fully support introducing lists of non-filterable offences customised for particular areas of employment, along with a threshold test for disclosure based on disposal / sentence, and reducing qualifying periods for the filtering of childhood convictions and cautions.

Of course, I don’t want the above to apply to serious crimes that a person may have done as a child, but if they were cautioned for stealing sweets  – should it really affect their life chances twenty years later, I think not”.

Dame Vera added “There are a number of recommendations contained within the report that are worthy of serious consideration and should be reviewed by government.  It’s important to remember that childhood convictions and cautions don’t just affect employment, it can have an adverse effect on housing, insurance and visas for travel – we need to get this right”.

One recommendation would see Police Chiefs being given additional discretion to withhold disclosure, taking into account the age and circumstances of the offences, with a rebuttable presumption against disclosure of offences committed during childhood.

Dame Vera said “This recommendation is to be welcomed as it enhances the common sense approach.  There needs to be coherence right across government policy in relation to disclosures and I fully agree with Mr Neill when he states this area of work would be enhanced by consolidating responsibility into a single department.  This report provides the government with the foundations to make lasting change, to ensure one off, minor crimes do not affect adults for the rest of the lives”.

Extracts from the report –

“I have two convictions. Both happened 38 years ago when I was a juvenile. The first was for petty theft, a silly prank with two mates, for which I got a conditional discharge. The second was for ABH: I got into a scrape, pushed someone to the ground and was fined £10. Since then I’ve become a teacher. I was a Deputy Head for some 20 years, but now I’ve started supply teaching I have to explain these as if I am now a criminal.”

“An individual whose case was presented by Unlock explained how her retaliation against a school bully had led to her receiving a police warning for ABH at the age of 15. As a result her university place to study nursing was revoked. She appealed against the decision, which involved writing a disclosure statement explaining the circumstances of the warning to a risk assessment panel. After qualifying she eventually obtained employment in nursing but has found career progression difficult because of her criminal record, which she is continually having to explain”.