Criminal records regime in the UK is failing children and young people and anchoring them to their past for decades

The current system for disclosure of youth criminal records undermines the principles of the youth justice system, says the UK Justice Committee in a new report published last week. The report also argues that the system may well fall short of the UK’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Witnesses highlighted the adverse effect of childhood criminal records on individuals' access to employment, education, housing, insurance, visas for travel, and its discriminatory impact on BAME children, those within the care system and others. Problems caused by the disclosure regime potentially affect large numbers of people.

Overall the evidence strongly supported the case for changing the criminal records disclosure system. The majority of those who expressed a view thought that reform was also needed in respect of records of crimes committed by young adults (18–25 year olds).

Commenting on the findings, the Committee Chair, Bob Neill said:

"The Government confirmed to us that its primary objective in youth justice is to stop people being drawn into crime, with consequent blighting of their life chances, as well as harm being caused to victims and communities.

But these laudable aims are systematically undermined by the current disclosure regime; mistakes made as a teenager can follow someone around for decades and create a barrier to rehabilitation, as well as profound problems with access to employment and education."

The Committee put forward a number of recommendations which can be read in full on the UK Parliament website.

Despite the evidence produced seeking reform of the filtering system, the UK Government is pursuing an appeal against the recent Court of Appeal decision on the compatibility of the with human rights standards.

Following NIACRO’s Off The Record campaign in 2015, the independent Criminal Records Filtering Review Scheme was introduced on 1st March 2016 in Northern Ireland, allowing for an independent review of information disclosed on standard and enhanced criminal record certificates issued by Access NI, with an automatic referral to the Independent Reviewer if the information eligible for review relates to when the applicant was aged under 18. You can read more about the campaign and the scheme here.