Help us wipe DBS checks clean of old/minor criminal records

by Unlock - for people with convictions

Help us wipe DBS checks clean of old/minor criminal records

by Unlock - for people with convictions
Unlock - for people with convictions
Unlock is an independent charity that stands up for people who find themselves being held back in life because of mistakes they made when they were younger that resulted in a criminal record.
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Unlock - for people with convictions
Unlock is an independent charity that stands up for people who find themselves being held back in life because of mistakes they made when they were younger that resulted in a criminal record.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

We’ve launched this CrowdJustice case page to raise funds and organise support to help us wipe DBS checks clean of old/minor criminal records. 

We are intervening in a Supreme Court case in June this year which challenges the government's approach to disclosing old and minor criminal records on standard and enhanced checks issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The government is arguing that the current criminal records disclosure regime is fair. We disagree.

Ever made a mistake when you were younger? 

We have all made mistakes and most of us have been fortunate enough not to be held back by them. But, not everyone is so lucky; where past mistakes are made in the sphere of criminal law they can - and do - haunt people for the rest of their lives. This can be the case even if the outcome at the time was just a ‘slap on the wrist’ from the police, such as a warning or a caution.

Take Michael (not his real name). When he was 17, Michael was convicted of theft of a coat from a market stall. He was fined £30. Ten months later, 23 days after turning 18, he was convicted of stealing a motor cycle and driving without insurance. He was fined £50 and sentenced to 24 hours at an attendance centre. That was 36 years ago; he’s come a long way since then. He’s now in his fifties. However, Michael’s long-forgotten past has come back to haunt him and he’s concerned about his work as a finance director. He could lose his job and a career that he’s worked hard for.

Then there’s Anita (not her real name). When she was 11, she was playing with a lighter in the girls’ bathroom at school and set a toilet roll alight causing around £100 of damage. She was arrested for Arson and told that the reprimand she was given would come off her record when she turned 19. Then after months of being bullied in secondary school, she was involved in a fight. She and the other pupil were both arrested for Actual Bodily Harm. She was encouraged by the police to accept a reprimand rather than challenge it in court and was told it would come off her record in five years. Now nearly in her thirties, she’s a qualified English teacher. However, not only was her record not removed like she was told it would be, but her two reprimands come up on enhanced DBS checks and will do under the current DBS rules for the rest of her life. The hopelessness of trying to find work has led her to working abroad and to bouts of depression and anxiety.

Under the current system, Michael & Anita’s criminal record will be disclosed for the rest of their lives. That’s what we’re trying to change.

Who are we?

Unlock is an independent charity that stands up for people in England & Wales who are trying to get on in life but find that their lives are blighted because they are anchored to mistakes they made when they were younger that resulted in them receiving a criminal record.

Our advocacy work is led by our co-director, Christopher Stacey, and we’re working with Bindmans LLP and barristers from Doughty Street Chambers (Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jesse Nicholls) on this case. 

The case

In June 2018, the Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the Government which is arguing that their current approach to disclosing old and minor cautions and convictions on standard and enhanced criminal record checks, often decades later, is fair. We disagree. And so did the High Court when in January 2016 it ruled that the current system is unlawful. Appealing against the ruling, the Government lost again at Court of Appeal in May 2017. The Government is now taking the case to the Supreme Court.

We are raising money to intervene in the Supreme Court. 

Unlock has been granted permission by the Supreme Court to intervene in the case. We want to put forward strong arguments on behalf of everyone who is unfairly affected by the criminal records disclosure regime because of its blunt rules which result in, for example, indefinite disclosure in all cases where someone was convicted of more than one offence, no matter how old or minor those offences were. Intervening will help us to make sure that the Supreme Court understands the importance of the issue, the failings of the current system, and how it could be changed for the better.

So we’re raising money now to pay for the legal costs that will help us to do this.

This is the first time in our 18-year history that Unlock has intervened in a legal case. That shows how important we think this case is.  

What are we trying to achieve? 

If we win, the Government will have to change the system of disclosing old and minor criminal records. This will give many thousands of people every year a fairer opportunity in applying for work or volunteering without the stigma and shame of having to disclose a mistake that they might have made decades earlier. 

But we need your support!

We all probably know somebody who did something wrong when they were younger. But they shouldn’t be punished for the rest of lives for it.

It is time to stand up for people who are often silenced through the shame and stigma of their past.

We need your help to make that happen. Please contribute whatever you can to help fund this vital case, and please share this page with family, friends and colleagues.

How much we are raising and why? 

Our first target of £6,000 will cover the work our legal team have done to get us to this point. Our stretch target will pay for the costs of preparing evidence and legal submissions.

Why is this important? 

Since the Criminal Records Bureau (now the Disclosure and Barring Service, DBS) began in 2002, the number of jobs and volunteer roles that require a standard or enhanced check has grown significantly. In 2002, there were around 1.3 million checks. In 2015/16, there were over 4.2 million – an increase of over 300%.

Cautions and convictions are disclosed on these checks, even when they have become spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This is a problem for very many people; in 2015/16, more than 241,000 people had a caution or conviction included on an official disclosure from the DBS. In the last 5 years alone, nearly half a million childhood convictions were disclosed that were from over 30 years ago from when the person was under 18. This represents almost half of all childhood convictions disclosed. Hundreds of thousands of people are being affected well into their 40’s as a result of mistakes they made when they were a child. 

A criminal record that someone gets in their youth can, in effect, be a life sentence. Due to shame and embarrassment about their earlier transgressions people will often avoid jobs which require criminal record checks. Also, employers regularly look for ‘clean’ records as part of their recruitment process meaning that even the most minor offences can rule people out.

That’s why we think the system needs to change.

It is time to stand up for people who are often silenced through the shame and stigma of their past.

We need your help to make that happen. Please contribute whatever you can to help fund this vital case, and please share this page with family, friends and colleagues.

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