We are pleased to republish a book review by CCRC Executive Director Margaret Love of a collection of essays about how European countries manage access to criminal records. The philosophy and values underpinning the EU approach revealed in these essays are so different from our own that their product will make record reformers in the U.S. green with envy.
For example, the review points out that one of the foundational premises of European systems of criminal records is that giving the public broad access would be “contrary to ‘fundamental’ considerations of privacy and human dignity protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, which implicitly limit loss of liberty and public stigmatization through disclosure of a past crime.” Accordingly, employers and other non-law enforcement entities can have access to criminal records only if their subject explicitly authorizes it, and even then a request will be permitted only in specified circumstances where a criminal record is deemed relevant.
Individuals asked to produce their record may decide that the uncertainty of benefit is not worth the risk of exposure. In this fashion, individuals may take responsibility for achieving their own social redemption even if they lose an economic opportunity.
Only a “dystopian account” of the Australian system of accessing criminal records will seem familiar to U.S. practitioners.
Here is the review by CCRC’s Margaret Love, which originally appeared in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books: