Spent Convictions Legislation

Spent Convictions Legislation

evidence shows that it is eight times harder for a person to gain employment [after imprisonment], with declaration of a criminal record the greatest factor in an employer refusing employment.’ – Scottish Government, Key facts, Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

 

More than 1 in every 3 men and almost 1 in every 10 women in Scotland have a criminal record. A past conviction can become ‘spent’, which means a person with a conviction no longer has to disclose their criminal record after a certain number of years. How long until the conviction is effectively removed from your record is stated in legislation, in Scotland this is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Regulations that permit past criminal transgressions to become spent are vital as it allows a person to move on from a conviction. However, unduly harsh spent conviction legislation means people have to reveal their criminal history for long periods of time, sometimes forever, severely hindering a person's attempt to find employment, training and volunteering, secure insurance and even open a bank account. These are basic and normal features of adult life, thus spent conviction legislation can render someone a second class citizen as well as socially and economically marginalising them. Moreover, access to these opportunities and routines are important for social reintegration and reducing re-offending. We advocate that a decrease in the period of time that must pass before a conviction becomes spent, what is known as a ‘rehabilitation period’, is overdue. Reducing the ‘rehabilitation period’ removes a significant hurdle, one that blocks a person with a conviction from being socially integrated and disrupts their ability to desist from crime. Change in the spent conviction legislation is due in 2018. Though the content of the proposed new legislation is not yet published, HLS strongly support a robust overhaul of the current arrangements. While the balance of the Act must also support employers who work with vulnerable groups, it should strive to also work in favour of social and economic equality for those with convictions.

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