Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill

Written evidence submitted by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous (CHB 16)

 

Charities (Protection And Social Investment) Bill

 

This submission relates specifically to p.7 Clause 10 subsection 5. My submission is that lines 34 to 36 be omitted. These lines relate to "Case K" whereby a person on the sex offenders register is automatically disqualified from being a trustee of any charity.

Submission

1. "Case K" was not suggested in Lord Hodgson's review of the Charities Act, and does not appear to have been subject to any consultation procedure. "Case K" goes much further than the proposal the government rejected in the original consultation prior to the publication of the draft bill in October 2014. The then Government rejected a proposal that "an unspent conviction for sexual offences should result in automatic disqualification from charity trusteeship for charities primarily involved with children or vulnerable adults."

2. The debate at the Grand Committee in the Lords where "Case K" was inserted into the Act did not appear to be well informed of the facts regarding the very limited risk posed by people on the sex offenders register. The debate was imbued with the beliefs that not only are people convicted of sex offences repugnant - a reasonable belief - but also they are at extreme risk of committing further sexual offences.

3. This second belief is completely contrary to the statistical evidence. Home Office and Ministry of Justice statistics show that people convicted of sex offences have a very low sexual offence reconviction rate - about 3% in a two year period [1] . This compares with an reconviction rate of around 50% for the generality of people convicted of criminal offences. Peer reviewed research shows that over a longer follow up period the sexual reconviction rate for people convicted of serious sexual offences remains low [2] .

4. HO and MOJ statistics show that around 84% of sexual offences are committed by people with no previous conviction for a sexual offence [3] . So the rate of repeat offending by people convicted of sex offences is low, and automatic disqualification of anyone on the sex offender register will have a negligible impact on the numbers of sex offences that might be committed by charity trustees.

5. The proposer of "Case K" in the Lords appeared to believe that automatic disqualification from being a trustee should be on the basis of 'having done bad things':

"...most glaring anomaly in the current law, which is that someone who has got into debt and is subject to an individual voluntary arrangement, or a person with financial misdemeanours behind them, is automatically excluded from being a trustee, but people on the sexual offenders register, who have surely done far worse than run up their credit card debt, can happily serve as a trustee" [4] .

6. Up to now, the automatic disqualifications from being a trustee relate to situations that suggest the individual might misuse or be incapable of managing the resources of the charity. It is the relevance of the background of the potential trustee to the management of the charity that is important - not a moral judgement on his past behaviour. Conspicuously, the legislation has made no attempt to automatically exclude people from being trustees on the basis that in the past they have done something reprehensible. There is no ban of convictions, for example, for murder, hate crimes, drug dealing or people trafficking!

7. I respectfully suggest that before automatically disqualifying someone with a conviction, heed should be paid to the words of the Justice Secretary at the Conservative Party Conference:

"But we should never define individuals by their worst moments...None of us - none of us - would want our identity and our future determined by our worst moments. And we should not compel those who have made mistakes to live lives forever defined by those mistakes. Committing an offence should not mean that society always sees you as an offender. "

8. People with convictions for sex offences, like other people with convictions, benefit in their rehabilitation from being able to make a contribution to society. Society will also benefit from the contribution such people may make. Lord Hodgson in his review identified the importance of considering the effect on rehabilitation when deciding if there should be additional offences that automatically disqualify someone from being a trustee.

9. One person in a thousand over the age of 10 is on the sex offender register [5] . Many are on the register indefinitely. There are an estimated 834,000 trustee board positions in charities in the UK [6] . Many charities have difficulties recruiting trustees. So "Case K" blocks for very many years, without good reason, an important avenue for many people with convictions to make a valuable contribution to society.

10. If there are safeguarding concerns relating to trustees of particular charities - for example charities whose work primarily involves Regulated Activities with children or with vulnerable adults as defined in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 - the proper place for these to be dealt with is by way of the Safeguarding legislation and exceptions orders to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

11. However, such concerns may not be valid. If a trustee of any charity engages in any Regulated Activity his involvement would in any case be subject to the full disclosure and barring procedures. This was the implication of the decision the government originally made when rejecting automatic disqualification in these circumstances.

12. Summary

For the generality of charities there is no valid rationale for the automatic disqualification of people on the sex offenders register from being trustees. People with convictions - any type of conviction - should not be needlessly excluded from opportunities to contribute to society. To do so without good cause harms the rehabilitation of the convicted person and deprives society of their potential contribution. Case K should be removed from the bill.


[1] Up to around 2002 The Home Office regularly publis ed reconviction figures for people leaving prison . These routinely showed a two year reconviction rate for sex offences for males whose original offence was sexual of 2-3%. People with a conviction for a sex offence are actually much more likely to be reconvicted for a non-sexual offence than for a sexual offence. For example p. 150 para. 9.23 of Prison Statistics England and Wales 2001 states:-

[1]

[1] "Of males discharged after custodial sentences for sexual offences 18 per cent were reconvicted within two years, which is the same as last year. However, among those who were reconvicted, 16 per cent were reconvicted for a sexual offence on first reconviction. This figure represents three per cent of all those sex offenders discharged from custody in 1998".

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251049/5743.pdf

[1]

[1] The MOJ does not produce figures in the same form but it is possible to deduce from their p u blished statistics t hat the sexual reconviction rat e for people with an original convict ion for a sex off ence is still similarly ve r y low . For example the 'Proven Reoffending tables' at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/proven-reoffending-statistics-january-2013-to-december-2013 confirm that the proportion of people with a sexual offence who are convicted of any further offence within the follow up period is 12.9%. The table states that there was an average of 2.25 offences per person convicted.

[1] However, Table B4 shows that the great majority of this reoffending (which in the MOJ tables includes summary and motoring offences) relates to non-sexual offences . Out of 1415 total re-offences only 174 were sexual offences. It may be assumed that as there were 2.25 offences per person convicted, this figure relates to just 77 individuals out of the cohort of 4900, or 1.6%, who were reconvicted of sexual offences in the follow up period.

[1]

[1]

[2] Hood, R. Shute, S et al (2002), Reconviction rates of serious sex offenders and assessments of their risk, Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, Findings 164 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110314171826/http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/r164.pdf

[3] Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales found here:

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-overview-of-sexual-offending-in-england-and-wales.

[3] On P. 53 : "The large majority of offenders sentenced for sexual offences in 2011, 83.7 per cent, had not previously been cautioned or convicted for a sexual offence".

[3]

[4] Hansard 23rd June 2015 Baroness Hayter

[4]

[5] Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements Annual Report 2014/15 p.6 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/471408/mappa-annual-report-2014-15.pdf

[5]

[6] http://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac12/how-many-trustees-of-voluntary-organisations-are-there-in-the-uk/

[6]

[6] January 2015

 

Prepared 4th January 2016