MPs call for ‘urgent review’ in DBS filtering system

The current disclosure system for criminal records is preventing young offenders from moving on to find employment and undermines the principles of the youth justice system, the House of Commons Justice Committee has claimed.

Oct 27, 2017

The current disclosure system for criminal records is preventing young offenders from moving on to find employment and undermines the principles of the youth justice system, the House of Commons Justice Committee has claimed. The committee argues that the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) may fall short of the UK’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its report – published on Friday (October 27) – considers whether the current statutory framework for disclosing records of offences committed by those under 18 is appropriate and effective, and whether it enables them to rehabilitate when they leave prison. Many individuals with previous convictions who spoke to the committee agreed that the DBS needs reforming. However, there was limited response from organisations representing employees or those making use of criminal record checks, the report said. As a result, the majority of the evidence heard by the committee was from previous offenders, and therefore “strongly supported” a case for changing the DBS. More than 11 million people in the UK have a criminal record, but three-quarters of employers admit to discriminating against applications with a criminal conviction, according to social responsibility advocacy charity Business in the Community (BITC). One witness – Bob Ashford – explained to the inquiry the impact of having acquired two minor convictions as a 13-year-old. Although he advanced to a senior level in social work and youth justice, when he stood for election as a police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset he found he would be barred from holding office because of his previous convictions. Bob Neill, chair of the Justice Committee, 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.” Sponsored by Lord Ramsbotham, the Criminal Records Bill – which had its first reading in the House of Commons in June – would significantly reduce rehabilitation periods for both adult and child custodial sentences. The Private Members Bill proposes reducing the length of time convictions take to become spent from seven years to four years. The committee has “strongly endorsed” the proposals for reducing rehabilitation periods for childhood offences, and has commended the Bill to Parliament. Some convictions and cautions will not appear on a DBS check due to it being filtered, but the committee has suggested replacing the list of non-filterable offences with several lists relevant to broad areas of employment. It has called for an “urgent review” of the filtering regime, due to its adverse impact on individuals with youth criminal records’ careers, particularly those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, children within the care system, girls forced into the sex industry and those seeking to become British citizens. The committee also recommended that chief police officers should be given the decision over what non-filterable offences should be disclosed during background checks. Mr Neill added: “According to the Children’s Commissioner for England there is no evidence to suggest that having committed more than one offence is predictive of a greater risk of continued offending in adulthood; on the contrary there is considerable evidence that most children stop offending as they mature. “Yet we still have a system which works to prevent children from moving on from their past and creates a barrier to rehabilitation.” The Justice Committee has also recommended extending a ‘Ban the Box’ campaign approach to all public sector vacancies and making it a mandatory requirement for all employe

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