Childhood criminal records: recent developments

Following a long-awaited judgment by the Supreme Court, cross-party parliamentary support for changes to the childhood criminal records system has been refocused.

Government loses criminal records disclosure case Supreme Court appeal – On Wednesday 30th January the Supreme Court handed down its judgment on the landmark criminal record disclosure case, announcing that the Government lost their appeal. The Judges ruled that the current disclosure system is disproportionate in two ways: by requiring disclosure of more than one convictions even if they were minor, and by failing to distinguish between warnings and reprimands issued to children, as opposed to convictions. The Government must now reform the system in line with the judgment.

SCYJ members Unlock and Just for Kids Law, who have been involved in the case, welcomed the announcement, issuing statements on their websites.

Following the judgment, SCYJ held a parliamentary roundtable hosted by David Lammy MP on the need to improve the childhood criminal record system, looking beyond the issues covered by the court case and examining the flaws that run deep throughout the current regime. The meeting heard from organisations and MPs who have been instrumental in the work towards these improvements and discussed the next steps to work together to achieve a system that promotes the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in trouble with the law.

Westminster Hall Debate – On Thursday 28th March MPs debated the Justice Select Committee inquiry report on disclosure of childhood criminal records. Chair of the Committee, Bob Neill, paid tribute to SCYJ and SCYJ member Unlock during his opening remarks, and other MPs highlighted our work during the debate. Youth Justice Minister Edward Argar stated he considers SCYJ’s input very carefully. Overall there was widespread agreement of the need for reform of the criminal record system. Neill has also written to Justice Secretary David Gauke asking what steps he is taking to ensure that the Disclosure and Barring Service suspends without delay the elements of the current regime deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court, and how and when he proposes to review the regime. Gauke responded that the MoJ and Home Office are considering the Supreme Court’s judgment and will respond once they have agreed next steps.