Off The Record

Old and minor convictions received under the age of 18 can have a lasting and damaging impact as a person moves through life. Having a criminal or police record restricts access to education, employment or training, travel opportunities and goods or services including insurance; if the person still lives at home, it can also void their parents’ house or car insurance. Moreover, it can also act as a precursor to further offending – rather than the deterrent it was intended to be. Even old, minor and spent convictions received under the age of 18 can be disclosed through enhanced disclosure checks used by some employers – despite the fact that the vast majority of young people who offend do not pose a real danger to others.

The Review of the Youth Justice System in Northern Ireland (2011) acknowledged that currently old and minor convictions damage the life chances of young people. It stated that “children must be given the best chance possible to succeed in life and become responsible citizens … they should be given every opportunity to put youthful misdemeanours and even serious offending behind them”. The Review recommended that rehabilitation legislation should be overhauled to reflect the principles of proportionality, transparency and fairness and called for a mechanism to allow for young people who offend to be allowed to apply for “a clean slate” (Recommendation 21). This Recommendation has not been implemented; instead, new filtering arrangements were introduced in April 2014 which changed the length of time until convictions become spent (i.e. no longer must be disclosed on a basic criminal record check).

While we welcome the move to review the criminal records regime in Northern Ireland, we are concerned that this provision does not take into account the specifics of youth offending and it does not allow for a person to ever ‘move on’ from offending behaviour when they were aged 10-17. Moreover, the new filtering arrangements introduced a list of 1,190 ‘specified offences’ which will never be filtered from a persons record – even if they were aged under 18 at the time and received a caution or diversionary youth conference. We believe that these filtering arrangements do not go far enough in facilitating the effective resettlement of young people who offend.


Update: Following the Off The Record campaign, the independent Criminal Records Filtering Review Scheme was introduced on 1st March 2016. This scheme allows 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. Read more about this Scheme here



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