Nacro, the crime reduction charity, has called on the coalition government to support the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Amendment) Bill and assist its passage through Parliament.
Tabled by Lord Dholakia, president of Nacro, the Bill reaches the report stage in the Lords on 2 November. Lord Dholakia has been a resolute campaigner to change the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. His reforms, supported by Nacro’s Change the Record campaign, are intended to help ex-offenders who have not committed a crime for many years, but are still unable to gain employment due to their criminal record.
Speaking ahead of the report stage, Lord Dholakia said:
‘This Bill will help people who have not offended for a long time and want to make a positive contribution to our economy, but are being held back by an outdated law.
‘There are people who committed crimes over 20 years ago, have done nothing illegal since, but still can’t get a job. Take the case of Patrick Bailey, a man who hasn’t committed a crime for the past 29 years, but is still struggling to find employment because of his criminal record.
‘Stories like Patrick’s are commonplace. The government needs to understand that reducing the amount of time people have to disclose criminal convictions for will not pose any risk to employers or the public. People working with children or vulnerable adults, as well as those in legal or financial positions will always have to disclose their convictions, no matter how long it is since they offended.
‘The government needs to show leadership on this issue, and by supporting my Bill it will help eliminate prejudices about obsolete criminal records and remove barriers to employment for those who have moved on from crime.‘
Background to the reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 was designed to help people who had turned their back on crime to find employment by allowing their criminal record to become ‘spent’ after a period of time, provided they had not reoffended. Once a record is spent, the person is no longer required to declare their offence to a prospective employer.
However, the Act is now out of date. In 1974 around 3,000 people received sentences of 30 months or more. By 2002, the number was over 12,000. This is not because of an increase in crime (crime actually fell during this period). It is because people are now being given longer sentences for the same offences (‘sentence inflation’). Given that the time it takes for a criminal record to become spent is based on the length of the sentence, this means nowadays people are having to disclose their sentences for longer and are more likely to face rejection when seeking work.
More facts about the number of people potentially affected by this law are available here.