Court litigation and policy debate revolving around the issue of criminal record disclosure are not unique to the United States. Especially in the United Kingdom, the past few years have witnessed important court decisions on the legal framework in place regulating access to criminal history information and the amount of information that can be obtained by third parties. For people with criminal records in the United Kingdom, last month was pretty significant. This is why I am very happy to post on the CCRC blog a commentary on recent litigation before the UK Supreme Court authored by Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, an independent charity organization that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record. Christopher last month led Unlock’s intervention before the UK Supreme Court. They put forward strong arguments on behalf of those who are unfairly affected by the criminal records disclosure regime.
Before discussing the case, let me briefly summarize the framework of the disclosure regime currently in place in the UK. This regime and the ongoing court litigation should be particularly interesting to advocates and lawmakers in the U.S. who are working to reform their own regimes.
Following the adoption of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in 1974, adult and juvenile convictions automatically become “spent” after the passage of a certain amount of “rehabilitation” time following completion of the sentence if the punishment imposed in court did not exceed a certain threshold provided for by the law (currently, a custodial sentence of over four years). Convictions triggering a custodial sentence of more than four years can never become spent. Required periods of post-sentence rehabilitation before a conviction is considered spent currently range from one to seven years for adult convictions, and from six months to three and a half years for juvenile offenses. There is no rehabilitation period before criminal records not resulting in conviction are considered spent.