Just for Kids Law, Unlock, and Liberty welcome new changes to the disclosure of youth criminal records

19 Nov 2020

We welcome today’s announcement from the Ministry of Justice of the implementation of legislation to change the rules governing the disclosure of criminal records, following over five years of hard work from our legal team and those at Unlock and Liberty.

After the legislation comes into force on 28 November, no reprimand, warning, or youth caution will be disclosed on standard or enhanced criminal record checks. The legislation removes the automatic disclosure of youth reprimands, warnings, and cautions. It also changes the rules around minor convictions – previously, when a person had more than one conviction, it would be automatically disclosed (often known as the ‘multiple conviction’ rule). Now, all minor convictions will be removed from checks after 5.5 years for childhood convictions and after 11 years for those received as adults. This will have a huge effect on the thousands of children who receive cautions every year.

In a landmark judgment last year, the Supreme Court ruled the disclosure of youth reprimands to future employers to be incompatible with human rights legislation. Upholding a 2017 ruling by the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court found that the disclosure of youth reprimands on DBS forms was “directly inconsistent” with their intended purpose as a diversion from the criminal justice system.

After working at length with the Ministry of Justice to amend the rules governing the disclosure of old cautions and convictions, today, we are finally able to see the results.

Jennifer Twite, Head of Strategic Litigation at Just for Kids Law, said: “Every year, about 25,000 youth cautions are disclosed in criminal record checks, most of which are for incidents that happened over five years ago. This new legislation will help to ensure that no child who is given a caution ends up with a lifelong criminal record that robs them of the chance to get their lives back on track.”

Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty, said: “We all want a criminal justice system that treats us with humanity, and allows people to move on from mistakes. For too long a blunt and bureaucratic system has meant that if you made mistakes in your past, you were prevented from moving on.”

“The Government had to be taken to the highest court, then took nearly two years to accept it had lost, but this injustice will finally be fixed. This case shows that through bravery and persistence a few individuals can use our legal system to stand up to power and obtain justice that will help countless people in similar situations.”

Christopher Stacey, Co-director at Unlock, said: “It shouldn’t have needed individuals to bring legal challenges against the government, who fought the case all the way to the highest court in the land, but I am proud that Unlock played a crucial role over the last seven years, working with other charities, to make sure this moment came. The changes coming in on 28 November are a crucial first step towards achieving a fair system that takes a more balanced approach towards disclosing criminal records.  

“However, we are still left with a criminal records system where many people with old and minor criminal records are shut out of jobs that they are qualified to do. We found that over a five year period, 380,000 checks contained childhood convictions, with 2,795 checks including convictions from children aged just ten. Many of these childhood convictions will continue to be disclosed despite today’s changes. Reviews by the Law Commission, Justice Select Committee, former Chair of the Youth Justice Board Charlie Taylor and David Lammy MP have all stressed the need to look at the wider disclosure system. The government’s plan for jobs should include a wider review of the criminal records disclosure system to ensure all law-abiding people with criminal records are able to move on into employment and contribute to our economic recovery.”