The Supreme Court will tomorrow hear the Government’s appeal in a long running case about the disclosure of criminal records. The Government is arguing that their current approach to disclosing old and minor cautions and convictions on standard and enhanced criminal record checks, often decades later, is fair. We disagree. And so did the High Court when in January 2016 it ruled that the current system is unlawful. Appealing against the ruling, the Government lost again at Court of Appeal in May 2017. The Government is now taking the case to the Supreme Court. The hearing will run from Tuesday 19 to Thursday 21 June 2018.
Unlock has intervened in the case to help to make sure that the Supreme Court understands the importance of the issue, the failings of the current system, and how it could be changed for the better. This is a first for Unlock; it is the first time they have acted as an intervener before the courts, reflecting the importance of this issue and these appeals.
Unlock have put forward strong arguments on behalf of people who are unfairly affected by the criminal records disclosure regime because of its blunt rules which result in, for example, indefinite disclosure in all cases where someone was convicted of more than one offence, no matter how old or minor those offences were.
Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, a charity for people with convictions, said:
Our research shows the significant number of people who are being unnecessarily anchored to their past as a result of a DBS filtering system which is blunt, restrictive and disproportionate. In the last 5 years alone, over 1 million youth criminal records were disclosed on standard or enhanced criminal record checks that related to offences from over 30 years’ ago.
The current system has multiple, harsh consequences and damaging effects on individuals – in particular it deters people from applying for employment, and for those that do apply it brings high levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of shame and stigma. It acts as an additional sentence that often runs for life. It desperately needs reform.
A fairer, more proportionate and flexible system should be developed that protects the public without unduly harming people’s opportunity to get on in life. We hope that the Supreme Court will reject the Government’s appeal. We stand ready to work with the Government to reform and implement a system that takes a more calibrated and targeted approach towards disclosing criminal records.