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Landmark Ruling on Disclosure of Criminal Records will Help Thousands of People

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The Court of Appeal has today rejected the Government’s appeal to a decision by the High Court in January last year, which ruled that the criminal records disclosure scheme was disproportionate and unlawful.

The judgement, handed down today, involves a number of cases that were heard in the Court of Appeal in February this year, including one from Liberty and one from Hodge, Jones & Allen, supported by Just for Kids Law.

The court ruled that the disclosure requirements are insufficiently safeguarded to be lawful, and were disproportionate in their effect. In one case, a man was convicted in the 1980’s of ABH when he was 16-years-old and received a conditional discharge. The President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Sir Brian Leveson, said in his judgement:

“It is difficult to see how publication of this detail, 31 years on, is relevant to the risk of the public, or proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.”

Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, a leading charity for people with convictions that supported the legal challenge and who attended the hearing in the Court of Appeal, said:

“Thousands of people contact us every year because they are being unnecessarily anchored to their past as a result of a criminal record disclosure system and DBS filtering process which is blunt, restrictive and disproportionate.

“We’re delighted with the Court of Appeal’s judgement in this important case, which stands to affect many thousands of people with old or minor criminal records. Over 240,000 DBS checks every year disclose convictions or cautions. Since the filtering scheme was introduced in 2013, it’s helped some people with old and minor records to be free of the stigma and discrimination that so many face when they have something they have to disclose to an employer. However, the current system doesn’t go far enough. It operates with inflexible rules meaning that, for example, someone with more than one conviction on their record will have them all disclosed forever, regardless of the nature or circumstances. The system acts as an additional sentence that often runs for life. It desperately needs reform. These shortcomings have today been recognised by the Court of Appeal.

“We strongly urge the next government to take immediate steps to respond to today’s ruling by reforming our criminal records system. A fairer and more flexible system would be one with expanded automatic filtering rules and a discretionary filtering process with a review mechanism. This would enable those with old and minor convictions to move on positively with their lives and gain employment. It is common sense that, while certain offences need to be disclosed to employers, we should not be unnecessarily blighting the lives of people who are trying to get on in life by disclosing old, minor and irrelevant information that holds them back and stops them from reaching their potential. We are committed to continuing our work with government, the DBS, employers and other key stakeholders to drive forward these much needed reforms.”