Our predecessor Committee held an inquiry into the disclosure of youth criminal records, on which it had concluded taking evidence but had not reported by the time Parliament was dissolved before the June 2017 general election. One of our first decisions in this Parliament was that we should produce a report on this important issue, based on the evidence received by our predecessor Committee. Our report considers whether the current statutory framework for disclosing records of offences committed by people when under 18 years old is appropriate and effective, and whether it strikes the right balance between protecting employers and the public, and rehabilitating people who commit offences as children. We also consider the impact of the current regime on people who offend as young adults.
Witnesses highlighted the adverse effect of childhood criminal records on individuals’ access to employment, education, housing, insurance and visas for travel, and its discriminatory impact on particular groups including Black and Minority Ethnic children and those within the care system. We made direct approaches to organisations representing employers or others making use of criminal records checks for their views on the subject, but received little response from them. Overall, the inquiry evidence strongly supported the case for changing the criminal records disclosure system. For young adults, the majority of those who expressed a view thought that reform was also needed.
We conclude that the current system undermines the laudable principles of the youth justice system and may well fall well short of the UK’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We regret the Government’s decision to pursue an appeal against the recent Court of Appeal decision on the compatibility of the filtering regime with human rights standards, rather than tackling the urgent need for reform. We also conclude that the coherence of Government policy on this area would be enhanced by consolidating responsibility into a single Department.
In addition our report makes a number of recommendations for changing the statutory framework, which can be summarised as follows:
The ‘Ban the Box’ campaign aims to delay the point at which job applicants have to disclose criminal convictions by ticking a box on application forms, allowing them to be judged primarily on merit. We recommend extending this approach to all public sector vacancies, with a view to making it a mandatory requirement for all employers. We further recommend urgent amendment to Government guidance on English housing authorities’ allocation schemes to reflect the 2016 court decision that found a local authority to have breached the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 by taking into account an applicant’s spent offences. In relation to insurance, we recommend that the Financial Conduct Authority consider undertaking a thematic review of providers wrongly declining cover or quoting higher premiums when customers disclose a criminal record.
24 October 2017