The Government has been urged to overhaul the “outdated” Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, cutting the time before offences become spent to help ex-offenders get back to work.
Ex-offenders charity Nacro is today presenting a report to MPs, which warns that the 1974 Act is an outdated law which makes it “incredibly hard” for people with criminal convictions to get and job and move on from their past.
People who have committed offences, usually minor ones, are put off from applying for jobs because they feel they will be rejected if they admit their unspent records, the report says, suggesting that the amount of time it takes for a record to be spent is “disproportionate”.
The report, part of a new Nacro campaign called Change the Record, also suggests the Act discriminates against ex-offenders. This is compounded by CRB checks which are often used unlawfully to expose spent crimes or non-disclosure where people have been to worried to admit their past.
The Act currently gives certain categories of ex-offenders the right not to disclose their offence to employers after periods of time ranging between five and 10 years, but this should be cut, according to Paul McDowell, chief executive of Nacro.
“Around a quarter of the adult population has a criminal record. Outdated legislation and unlawful practices are preventing people from moving on with their lives and finding work,” he said.
“Research shows that getting reformed offenders into work can reduce reoffending by up to a half. Updating the legislation therefore benefits not only ex-offenders and employers, who gain valuable skills, but also the wider community.”
The Change the Record campaign is being backed by former Conservative MP and ex-offender Jonathan Aitken.
“I am one of many ex-offenders grateful for the passing of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in 1974. This legislation was designed to help people with a criminal record get back into work. It established the principle of ‘spent’ convictions,” he said.
“But after 36 years, the 1974 is in need of reform because its limitations make it out of date and ineffective. The rehabilitation periods are also too onerous. So amendments to the Act are overdue.”