Disclosure of youth criminal records Contents


Background to the inquiry

1.The impact on people in England and Wales of disclosing their childhood criminal records, including after they have become adults, has been the focus of concern for many years. For example, the Carlile inquiry, noting evidence of the ‘destructive’ effect of childhood criminal records, recommended in 2014 that children who have committed non-serious and non-violent offences should have their criminal record expunged at the age of 18 if they have stopped offending.1 A series of legal challenges to the previous disclosure regime led to modification of the legal framework, most recently in 2013 when a filtering system was introduced to prevent disclosure of certain ‘spent’ records in standard and enhanced certificates.

2.Our predecessor Committee received representations from Unlock and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice drawing attention to the continuing negative impact of criminal records on children, who are more likely to acquire a record in this jurisdiction than in many others2 and face profound effects on their lives as a result. That Committee’s inquiry into the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system, on which it reported on 18 October 2016,3 received evidence suggesting that a change in the treatment of criminal records was required to enable young adults to form non-criminal identities following their involvement in the criminal justice system.

Inquiry terms of reference and evidence received

3.Against this background, the previous Committee decided on 13 October 2016 to launch an inquiry into the system governing the disclosure of youth criminal records. It invited written submissions on the following issues:

4.In the light of evidence to its inquiry into the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system,4 that Committee also sought views on whether the regime governing disclosure of criminal records relating to offences committed by children should be extended to apply to records of offences committed by older people, for example up to the ages of 21 or 25.

5.In the course of its inquiry into disclosure of youth criminal records, our predecessor Committee received written evidence from a range of statutory, voluntary, academic and other bodies, as well as from a number of individuals who had personal experience of the disclosure regime; in total, 40 written submissions were published. In spite of making direct approaches to a number of organisations representing those who use criminal record checks when assessing prospective employees or social housing tenants, the previous Committee received very little written evidence from this perspective.

6.On 13 December 2016, the previous Committee held a private seminar attended by eight individuals who had been directly affected by the disclosure of criminal records acquired before they were under 18, together with representatives of three NGOs: the Standing Committee for Youth Justice; Unlock; and Wipetheslateclean. An informal note of this seminar appears as Annex 2 to this report.5 The Committee also held a public evidence session, at which the witnesses were Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock; Ali Wigzell, Chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice; Dr Phillip Lee MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice;6 Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Counter-Extremism at the Home Office;7 and Christian Papaleontiou, Head of the Public Protection Unit at the Home Office.

7.Following the dissolution of Parliament on 3 May 2017, the then Justice Committee—along with all Select Committees—ceased to exist and its ongoing inquiries were closed. The new Justice Committee was established on 11 September 2017. Taking account of the compelling evidence received by the inquiry into disclosure of youth criminal records and the most recent developments on this issue—including the publication of the report of the Taylor Review of the youth justice system, a key judgment of the Court of Appeal, a report by the Law Commission, and the conclusions of the Lammy review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system—we decided at our first meeting on 13 September 2017 that we should seek to agree a report on the basis of evidence taken by our predecessor Committee. We would like to record our thanks to all those who provided oral and written evidence to our predecessor’s inquiry, and in particular to those individuals who were willing to share their personal experiences—either by submitting written evidence or by attending the Committee’s private seminar in December 2016.

8.For those readers without prior knowledge of the legal system governing the disclosure of criminal records and the organisations with responsibilities for operating this system, the recent history of the criminal records disclosure regime and a description of the current framework can be found at Annex 1 to this report.

6 Dr Phillip Lee MP was appointed to his role as Justice Minister in July 2016, and then reappointed after the June 2017 general election.

7 Sarah Newton MP was appointed to her role as Home Office Minister in July 2016, and then reappointed after the June 2017 general election.

24 October 2017