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Double Discrimination?

Criminal background check application form with glasses and ballpoint pen.

People from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds believe that criminal record disclosure rules negatively impact their chances of finding employment a recent report has revealed.

Double Discrimination? published by Unlock, the leading charity for people with convictions, found that 78% of people surveyed felt their ethnicity made it harder for them to move forward in life after receiving a criminal record. Areas such as employment, volunteering, insurance, travel/immigration and college/university/education are impacted for many years in all age groups. African and Caribbean people were most affected.

Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said: “The perceptions of many people we surveyed were that the criminal record disclosure rules caused them more problems because, had they been white, they may not have been prosecuted, or the sentence they received would have been lower and therefore ‘spent’ earlier.

“These perceptions are borne out by other evidence that shows how the criminal justice system disproportionately impacts on people from some BAME groups because of over-criminalisation and harsher treatment. Put simply, ethnicity impacts on the type of criminal record someone gets. The disclosure regime exacerbates problems faced by people already treated more harshly at all stages in the criminal justice system.”

David Lammy MP, who published a review looking at the impact of the criminal justice system on BAME service users, and provided the foreword to Unlock’s report said: “This report by Unlock demonstrates that our criminal records system disproportionately discriminates against those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Already facing discrimination when applying for employment, the barriers that BAME individuals face are solidified and compounded by our arcane criminal record process. This report shines a light on BAME individuals’ experiences of post-conviction problems – tied to the past and facing multiple disadvantage.”

Unlock have proposed a number of recommendations which include:

  • Data to be collected on the ethnicity of people undergoing criminal record checks, and ethnic groups to be distinguished when measuring disproportionality in the justice system. (Grouping BAME people as one can mask inequalities rather than help challenge them.)
  • Police to understand when they can use informal disposals instead of a caution, and ensure individuals have specific information tailored to the circumstances before accepting a caution.
  • MoJ should respond to the recommendation in the Lammy Review on sealing criminal records, or state articulate why not and explain other changes it will make instead.
  • The Government should extend the Ban the Box commitment beyond the civil service to all public bodies.
  • Clear guidance to individuals, as to what types of criminal record may affect a person’s settled status application
  • A remedial order to be passed or as soon as practical to deal with the Supreme Court judgment to ensure that all youth cautions, reprimands and warnings are now filtered out, and that the multiple conviction rule is removed.
  • A fundamental review of the wider criminal records disclosure regime, including reforms to ensure effective protection from discrimination for people with spent and/or filtered criminal records.

Christopher Stacey said: “We urge the government to take forward our recommendations, including to carry out a fundamental review of the criminal records regime and to implement reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, including reducing the time before convictions become spent and expanding the scope of legislation so that all convictions can become spent.”

Visit www.unlock.org.uk to read the report in full and find out more information about the Ban the Box campaign

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