Timescale for ex-offenders to be required to report criminal history to be reduced… The Government has announced plans to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in an effort to help job applicants with previous criminal convictions to re-enter the workforce.
The intention is to reduce by more than half in some cases, the time for which criminal offences are considered expired for reporting purposes. This would mean that job applicants with previous criminal convictions would not be required to declare their convictions if they occurred outside of the amended timeline. For example, if someone had had a period in custody of up to six months, that conviction would be considered spent 30 months after being released as opposed to the current time-scale of seven years.
Justice minister Lord McNally explained: “Criminals must be suitably punished for their crimes. But it is no good for anyone if they go to jail and come out and then can’t get an honest job, and so turn back to crime again.
“That is why we are bringing forward reforms which will give offenders who have served their sentence a fair chance of getting back on the straight and narrow, while ensuring safeguards are in place to protect the public.”
Former convicts who had served longer jail sentences would also benefit from the proposed legislation changes. Prison terms of six months to two and a half years in length would expire and no longer have to be reported six and a half years after leaving jail, compared with ten years in the present system, and sentences of between two and a half and four years would no longer have to be declared 11 years after release whereas currently they must be declared indefinitely.
Some have objected to the suggested amendments fearing that dangerous criminals might find it easier to find employment but strict regulations remain in place for disclosure of previous crimes for those who have committed more serious offences.
Nacro, a charity aimed at reducing crime said reforms didn’t go far enough to help ex-offenders, their Chief Executive Paul McDowell commented: “Today’s proposed amendments will mean that more people will be able to secure work, give something back to society and lead productive lives.
“But despite the proposed changes, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will still present barriers to people who have put their offending behind them, particularly those who have served four or more years in prison.”