Nacro has welcomed the government’s announcement that it will table an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
Responding to the announcement, Lord Dholakia, president of Nacro said:
“I am delighted that the government has committed itself towards making a positive step and reforming this outdated legislation. By amending the Act to reflect changes in sentence length we can help people who have moved on from crime to put their pasts behind them, and make a positive contribution to society.
“Of course, it will be very important that the government’s amendment is fair and positive. I hope that they will study my private member’s bill closely to do this, and I will be examining their proposals with interest.”
Speaking in the second reading of the LASPO Bill in the House of Lords, Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice and Deputy Leader in the House of Lords, said:
“…The Government intend to introduce reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the outdated operation of which inhibits rehabilitation. We intend to bring forward amendments to achieve the right balance between the need to protect the public while removing unnecessary barriers that prevent reformed offenders contributing to society. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Dholakia on his long campaign on this matter. We believe that punishment must be proportionate, flexible and productive…”
(Column 823 Hansard 21 November)
On Wednesday 23 November Lord Dholakia’s Rehabilitation of Offenders (Amendment) Bill reaches its third reading in the House of Lords. The private member’s bill sets out proportionate adjustments to the length of time for which a person needs to disclose a previous conviction.
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However, the Act is now out of date.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.
For more information about Nacro’s campaign to Change the Record and reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act please go here.