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Repealing the ‘Exceptions’ to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Comment 13th August 2010

The purpose of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is to re-integrate ex-offenders into society.  A person who has commited an offence which has consequently become spent and who hasn't reoffended since, should not, by virtue of the above Act, be compelled to disclose such an offence to a potential employer.  So, why are certain professions exempt from this?  It is submitted that the 'Exemptions' list to the above Act should be explicitly repealed.

Why does this matter?

It seems that whilst the current law and government allows a rehabilitated offender who has paid their dues for their crime to reintegrate into society, they are not allowed complete rights to reintegration by limiting the types of work and consequently the level of income and lifestyle that such a person can attain.  This defies the notion of 'rehabilitation' and convictions ever becoming truly 'spent'.

Whilst the regulatory bodies are charged with the responsibility of determining whether a potential lawyer or doctor, for example, is deemed eligible to enter into a profession after disclosing such an offence (even this requirement is questionable), the ex-offender is then required to disclose this to a potential employer.  If the SRA or the GMC have approved it, then why should it go any further?  We all know that in times of fierce labour competition in the market, most employers are looking at any means (be they ethical or otherwise) to cull the list of equally qualified applicants for a particular job which is oversubscribed.

Once a criminal, always a criminal?  This is what the 'Exemptions' list perpetuates.  It assumes that members of the public require protection from a rehabilitated person.  Well, if they're rehabilitated, then they ought not to be any more harmful than the next person who may, or may not, be a criminal deviant who just hasn't been caught. 

The purpose of punishment is for the offender to pay their dues to society and to, ultimately, achieve rehabilitation in order to re-enter and conform to society.  The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exemptions) 1974 prohibits this.

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