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Reforms which will cut the amount of time some offenders need to disclose details of any low level convictions have come into effect today, 10 March 2014, Justice Minister Simon Hughes has said.

The move is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling reoffending so that offenders can turn their back on a life of crime and can get back into honest work.

However, all offenders will still always have to declare previous convictions when applying for jobs in sensitive workplaces like schools and hospitals or working with people in vulnerable circumstances. The most serious offenders will continue to have to declare their convictions for the rest of their lives when applying for any job.

Ministry of Justice research shows that former offenders who gain employment are less likely to reoffend.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Today’s changes are long overdue. They will mean that people who have turned their backs on crime will be able to move on with their lives. Evidence shows that former offenders who are able to get back into the world of work and contribute to society are less likely to reoffend. Making a mistake and committing a minor crime when you are fifteen shouldn’t mean you are barred from employment for the rest of your life.”

Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:

“The Coalition government is committed to making sure that offenders take responsibility for their actions. But we also need to make sure that ex-offenders are able to contribute to society by getting an honest job and putting their offending behind them.

“These reforms will help guarantee the continued safety of the public. They will also give offenders who have served their sentence a fair chance of getting their lives back on track.”

These reforms will also change the way some rehabilitation periods are set so that they are fairer and reflect better the seriousness of the sentences imposed.

Under the new system, rehabilitation periods for community orders and custodial sentences will comprise the period of the sentence plus an additional specified period, rather than all rehabilitation periods starting from the date of conviction as it is under the current regime. So, for an example, an adult offender sentenced to two and a half years custody, who would previously have had to declare their criminal conviction for ten years from the date of conviction, will now have to disclose their conviction for the period of the sentence plus a further four years (giving a total rehabilitation period of 6.5 years).

The reforms set out to transform the way offenders are rehabilitated in the community. Chaotic offenders with complex problems need support to turn their lives around, combined with proper punishment.

Graham Beech, Acting Chief Executive of Nacro, said:

“Nacro welcomes the long overdue reforms to the Act because it will remove some of the difficulties that people face when they try to secure education, employment and insurance. It cannot be right that someone who made a mistake in their teens – the only act of criminality they’ve ever been involved in – is prevented from entering the labour market when they are in their thirties and forties because they still have to disclose the conviction to a prospective employer.

“Whilst some ex-offenders will still face barriers, and those who’ve served more than four years in prison will still need to disclose their previous convictions, many people who have successfully managed to put their offending behind them will no longer face the same obstacles in moving their lives on because of an age-old criminal record which has continued to hang around their necks. They will be hugely relieved to hear that these legislative changes have finally come into effect.”

Nacro is pleased that employers and employer organisations are working to implement the new legislation.

Nicola Inge of Business in the Community, said:

“Business in the Community welcomes news that the changes to the ROA will soon be implemented. These will be an important step towards enabling people to put their convictions behind them and fully contribute to society. We know that employment is one of the most effective ways of reducing re-offending, which is why we launched our Ban the Box campaign last year asking employers to assess candidates based on skills and ability first and foremost, rather than on an unrelated criminal conviction.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Philip Richards, commented:

“Change needs to come from within business which is why Freshfields is taking the lead within the legal sector by banning the box from our application forms. We aim wherever we can to give potential employees with unspent criminal convictions a level playing field, so they can convince us of their ability to take on a particular role without our judgement being clouded by the fact that they have a record.”

For more details of the new rehabilitation periods, see the full announcement from the Ministry of Justice.