Thursday, 16 September 2010
Rehabilitation of Offenders - (1) Overview
Probably most people would agree that offenders ought to be given the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves into society. Nevertheless, a balance has to be achieved between the rehabilitation of the offender and public protection from those who have offended and might re-offend if placed in certain situations. In passing the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, an attempt was made to achieve such a balance.
It is a complex scheme in which the length of the rehabilitation period depends on the length of sentence imposed and not on the offence for which it was imposed. Those offenders sentenced to more than two and half years imprisonment will never have that conviction "spent". Those sentenced to two and half years or less may have their conviction "spent" once a rehabilitation period has been successfully completed (i.e. usually without further conviction in the period). For some purposes, set out in an "Exceptions order", convictions which attracted even those shorter convictions never become spent. There are also differences between the scheme applicable to adult offenders and that for young persons who have offended.
Convictions for recordable offences are put on to the Police National Computer and will usually remain there long after they have become "spent" under the 1974 Act. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has issued "guidelines" about the retention of records.
In 2001, Jack Straw announced a review of the 1974 Act . In 2010, the workings of the Act are again being questioned and NACRO has launched a campaign aimed at persuading MPs that the law is in need of reform. In particular, the rehabilitation periods are considered to be too onerous and operate to prevent people getting employment.
The workings of the 1974 Act scheme must also be considered in relation to the various types of CRB checks and the various forms of "disclosure" are explained in the CRB Code of Practice See also the Vetting and Barring Scheme.
Further information about the Act may be read at Your Rights , at Prison Reform Trust and at Criminal Records Bureau.
This makes for a very complex situation and several aspects of it require more detailed consideration which I hope to do in some future posts.
Is this scheme as unfair on former offenders as NACRO are suggesting? I suspect that they are right. The considered views of readers will be more than welcome.