Statement on Minister Ford’s comments on youth criminal records

NIACRO statement on Minister Ford’s comments on youth criminal records.

Following comments the Minister for Justice, David Ford MLA, made during Question Time in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday 27 January 2015, Olwen Lyner, Chief Executive of NIACRO, said:

“We welcome the Minister’s recognition of the impact of childhood convictions, and the proposal to include an automatic referral to the filtering process for cases where offences were committed under the age of 18. This is an encouraging sign that the Minister and his Department have listened not only to us, but also to the general public, who responded very positively to our Off The Record messages and short film.

However, it’s important to recognise that the impact of minor convictions goes beyond Access NI and disclosing criminal record information to employers; it can impact on a person’s ability to travel or even get house or car insurance. If that young person lives with their parents, their parents also have to disclose the conviction to insurers and may be denied that service.

Moreover, filtering will only make a conviction ‘spent’: it will not take it ‘off the record’ entirely and it may still be disclosed on enhanced employment checks, as well as visa and insurance applications. The list of 1,190 specified offences which filtering does not apply to also prohibits many of the thousands of young people with convictions or cautions from benefiting from this process – including those whose offences could be considered ‘minor’. The filtering process may also preclude those who have more than one childhood conviction.

In addition, while we recognise the Minister prefers the idea of an independent reviewer to that of the multi-agency panel, we do think there needs to be more information about how that reviewer’s independence would be guaranteed. For example, it may be appropriate that the reviewer is accountable to a panel made up of representatives from justice, social services, the voluntary sector and the victims sector to ensure objectivity and accountability.

“However, we do recognise that significant progress is being made. We also recognise that the Minister is keen to increase joined up working across the Executive to ensure all Departments meet their obligation to reduce offending, and we support his efforts.

We are happy to continue to engage with the Department and the Minister to determine the definition of a ‘minor offence’ and ensure the best outcomes for everyone, including children caught up in the justice system, and propose that a pilot programme should be run and then evaluated so that we can get a system in place that really works.

To get there, it is vital that the overwhelming support for this policy change continues. If you believe that people who offended as children should have the opportunity to have those offences removed from their record, you can help us by writing to your MLA, showing your support on Twitter or Facebook using #OffTheRecord, and by sharing the campaign film and keeping the conversation going.

In addition, if you have a childhood conviction which could be considered as minor and would be willing to share your story with NIACRO to help this campaign, please contact Julia on 028 9032 0157 or julia@niacro.co.uk.”


  1. If you are affected by a conviction from childhood, please read our short post on the proposed changes to filtering here.
  2. For press and media enquiries, please contact Julia Kenny: julia@niacro.co.uk or 028 9032 0157.