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Last month, David Lammy MP published a review recommending that, in certain cases, criminal records could be sealed from employers. Reforms such as this could have positive consequences for businesses and workers alike, argues employment solicitor Catherine Hawkes.
According to the Home Office, reoffending is estimated to cost the taxpayer between £9.5bn and £13bn per year, with half of all crime committed by those who have already been through the criminal justice system.
Part of the problem is thought to lie in the UK’s criminal records regime, which acts as a real barrier to employment for ex-offenders.
It is widely considered that a job removes dependence on criminality for income, boosts self-respect and gives ex-offenders a meaningful role within society. There are also real benefits for employers over and above good PR and altruism, with Pret a Manger, Virgin Trains and Timpson championing the recruitment of ex-offenders.
Last month, David Lammy MP published an independent review into the treatment of and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system.
As part of his review, he suggests the criminal record system is in urgent need of reform and that a more flexible approach should be adopted for people who have changed and no longer pose a significant risk to others.
Ex-offenders and the law
The key legislation governing the treatment of individuals with criminal records is set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
Subject to certain exceptions, a person who has been convicted of a cri