WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
February 19 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Major reforms to spending periods but ‘injustice of lifelong unspent convictions’ remains

Major reforms to spending periods but ‘injustice of lifelong unspent convictions’ remains

Prisoners return from their jobs to their wings for lunch at Wandsworth prison..HMP Wandsworth in South West London was built in 1851 and is one of the largest prisons in Western Europe. It has a capacity of 1456 prisoners.

Under new reforms, prison sentences of four years will become ‘spent’ after seven years if no further offences are committed. The changes, made under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, mean up to 120,000 people who have spent time in prison will no longer need to declare this to employers.

Announcing the measures, the Justice Secretary said: ‘These reforms will help ex-offenders get the steady income, routine and purpose they need which cuts reoffending and ensures fewer members of the public become victims of crime.’

Under the new reforms, serious sexual, violent, or terrorist offences are excluded from the changes. This is the first time that the type of conviction will factor in to whether an offence is spent or not, and means many convictions will remain unspent for life.

The head of the charity Unlock, which supports ex-offenders, said these changes ‘will give people the chance to move on with their lives much sooner’. However, they said that the new rules on factoring in the type of offence ‘adds a new layer of complexity to an already confusing system.’ They said in a statement that they will continue to fight against ‘the injustice of lifelong unspent convictions’.

Research shows that employment has a significant effect in deterring reoffending. Data from Ministry of Justice indicates that the re-offending rate was nine percentage points lower for those who found employment after release.

Naomi, a previous offender who found employment with the help of Recycling Lives, said the purpose of the legislation is ‘eradicating stereotypical views and allowing ex-offenders to blossom.’

Justice charity Nacro wrote on X: ‘Whilst we welcome these changes, the criminal records disclosure system remains overly complex, often arbitrary and difficult to navigate.’ They have suggested the criminal records disclosure regime needs a more radical overhaul.