Criminal Record Retention

The length of time that some criminal offences are kept on record is inappropriate, unjust, and disproportionate to the crimes themselves. Draconian would not be a hyperbole.

For example, I was 'cautioned' at the age of thirteen for possession of a class B substance (a very small amount of Cannabis) and, despite not having been cautioned, warned, charged, or convicted of a single offence since, the caution is still on my record. It can never be deleted.

It has cost me jobs in the past and I am sure it will lend itself to further prejudice from employers in the future. I recently graduated from one of the top universities in Europe and yet this blemish on my record continues to blight my future job prospects and earning potential. Is that what criminal justice is supposed to be about? Would that be a fair and moral punishment for such a minor offence?

I have held lengthy conversations with the police force about this and they have generally been both helpful and honest. They too seem to share my bemusement and frustration over the present system. 

All I can hope for now is that my caution is 'stepped down', a term that means it can be hidden from employers but not from the police force. The 'step down period' of possession of a class B substance for a young offender is, astonishingly, 10 years. Possession of a class B substance is deemed to be an Offence Group A crime, along with other fairly harmless stuff like 'Genocide', 'Murder', 'Rape', and, my personal favourite, 'Infanticide' (that's the practice of intentionally killing an infant). So, as a young member of society, I have been lumped together with murderers, rapists, and the genocidally insane. Great.

Now, I am well aware that the laws regarding criminal record retention changed in 2006 after the Ian Huntley case. The previous system (the one that existed before 2006) deleted, or was supposed to delete, all warnings, cautions, charges and convictions from a young offender's record once they had turned 18. But guess what? In 2006 I had already turned 18. I was in fact 20 years of age. My caution was supposed to have been deleted 2 years previously. But, alas, it was not and is still sitting pretty on my criminal record. Good old fashioned British police negligence. It really does bring a tear to one's eye.

What I propose is quite simple really. This system needs a complete overhaul. Why equate smoking cannabis to raping and murdering a young child? What sort of message does that give? Individuals like me, who have committed such minor offences, should clearly not be castigated by a punitive and unfair system. This needs changing. Now.

Why is this idea important?

The length of time that some criminal offences are kept on record is inappropriate, unjust, and disproportionate to the crimes themselves. Draconian would not be a hyperbole.

For example, I was 'cautioned' at the age of thirteen for possession of a class B substance (a very small amount of Cannabis) and, despite not having been cautioned, warned, charged, or convicted of a single offence since, the caution is still on my record. It can never be deleted.

It has cost me jobs in the past and I am sure it will lend itself to further prejudice from employers in the future. I recently graduated from one of the top universities in Europe and yet this blemish on my record continues to blight my future job prospects and earning potential. Is that what criminal justice is supposed to be about? Would that be a fair and moral punishment for such a minor offence?

I have held lengthy conversations with the police force about this and they have generally been both helpful and honest. They too seem to share my bemusement and frustration over the present system. 

All I can hope for now is that my caution is 'stepped down', a term that means it can be hidden from employers but not from the police force. The 'step down period' of possession of a class B substance for a young offender is, astonishingly, 10 years. Possession of a class B substance is deemed to be an Offence Group A crime, along with other fairly harmless stuff like 'Genocide', 'Murder', 'Rape', and, my personal favourite, 'Infanticide' (that's the practice of intentionally killing an infant). So, as a young member of society, I have been lumped together with murderers, rapists, and the genocidally insane. Great.

Now, I am well aware that the laws regarding criminal record retention changed in 2006 after the Ian Huntley case. The previous system (the one that existed before 2006) deleted, or was supposed to delete, all warnings, cautions, charges and convictions from a young offender's record once they had turned 18. But guess what? In 2006 I had already turned 18. I was in fact 20 years of age. My caution was supposed to have been deleted 2 years previously. But, alas, it was not and is still sitting pretty on my criminal record. Good old fashioned British police negligence. It really does bring a tear to one's eye.

What I propose is quite simple really. This system needs a complete overhaul. Why equate smoking cannabis to raping and murdering a young child? What sort of message does that give? Individuals like me, who have committed such minor offences, should clearly not be castigated by a punitive and unfair system. This needs changing. Now.

Stop protecting the anonymity of teenagers convicted of violent crime

Amend the law which grants the right of anonymity to young offenders so that it does not apply to those aged 13 or over convicted of the most serious crimes, such as murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.

The law should be protecting the victims of these crimes, not the perpetrators.  What is more, the public should have the right to know the identity of someone who has been convicted of committing a very serious crime in their community.

By the age of 13 someone should be well aware that such crimes destroy the lives of the victims and the victims’ families and should thus suffer the full consequences of their actions.  The perpetrators of these crimes are violent thugs, not sweet, innocent ‘children’ who need mollycoddling and protecting, and the law should reflect this.

Why is this idea important?

Amend the law which grants the right of anonymity to young offenders so that it does not apply to those aged 13 or over convicted of the most serious crimes, such as murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.

The law should be protecting the victims of these crimes, not the perpetrators.  What is more, the public should have the right to know the identity of someone who has been convicted of committing a very serious crime in their community.

By the age of 13 someone should be well aware that such crimes destroy the lives of the victims and the victims’ families and should thus suffer the full consequences of their actions.  The perpetrators of these crimes are violent thugs, not sweet, innocent ‘children’ who need mollycoddling and protecting, and the law should reflect this.

Remove the right to anonymity of 16/17 year olds convicted of crimes

Amend the law that currently provides special legal protection to all under 18s convicted of crimes so that it only applies to those under the age of 16.

By the age of 16, somebody is more than mature enough to face the full consequences of their actions.  The law should reflect this. 

The law as it stands means that the press are prevented from revealing the identity of a 16/17 year old convicted criminal unless the Judge presiding over the case specifically lifts their anonymity.  The result of this is that the media report that ‘A 16 year old, who can not be named for legal reasons has been convicted of …’.  This tarnishes the reputation of all 16 year olds, even though the vast majority would never dream of committing the crime that that individual 16 year old has been convicted of committing, as it gives the impression that:

(a) It could be any 16 year old who has done it, and

(b) There is a likelihood that any 16 year old might commit a similar crime. 

This is not the case.

As with any other age group, the vast majority of criminal offences are committed by a very small minority.  This small minority should be forced to take full responsibility for their actions. 

Why is this idea important?

Amend the law that currently provides special legal protection to all under 18s convicted of crimes so that it only applies to those under the age of 16.

By the age of 16, somebody is more than mature enough to face the full consequences of their actions.  The law should reflect this. 

The law as it stands means that the press are prevented from revealing the identity of a 16/17 year old convicted criminal unless the Judge presiding over the case specifically lifts their anonymity.  The result of this is that the media report that ‘A 16 year old, who can not be named for legal reasons has been convicted of …’.  This tarnishes the reputation of all 16 year olds, even though the vast majority would never dream of committing the crime that that individual 16 year old has been convicted of committing, as it gives the impression that:

(a) It could be any 16 year old who has done it, and

(b) There is a likelihood that any 16 year old might commit a similar crime. 

This is not the case.

As with any other age group, the vast majority of criminal offences are committed by a very small minority.  This small minority should be forced to take full responsibility for their actions. 

Spent convictions table and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

The whole matter of spent convictions, their retention on CRB and police files and the obligation for offenders to disclose them needs urgent review.    Offences should be categorised along with a table of time limits, beyond which those offences are automatically removed from the records.

In particular, concern should be shown about indictments against young people, where the need to rehabilitate carries even greater import.

Sensible rehabilitation must mean sensible rehabilitation …  and the law must be seen as having been enacted in good faith.   

Why is this idea important?

The whole matter of spent convictions, their retention on CRB and police files and the obligation for offenders to disclose them needs urgent review.    Offences should be categorised along with a table of time limits, beyond which those offences are automatically removed from the records.

In particular, concern should be shown about indictments against young people, where the need to rehabilitate carries even greater import.

Sensible rehabilitation must mean sensible rehabilitation …  and the law must be seen as having been enacted in good faith.   

Introduce Maturity Cards

Instead of introducing ID cards, why not introduce something akin to a driver's licence where people have points docked for breaking the law or being anti-social and threatening? It could be a useful way of keeping anti-social behaviour in check as at present there are many people who break the law in minor ways on a weekly basis by disturbing the peace, menacing people in gangs etc, as well as those people who get drunk and start fights all of the time.

Why is this idea important?

Instead of introducing ID cards, why not introduce something akin to a driver's licence where people have points docked for breaking the law or being anti-social and threatening? It could be a useful way of keeping anti-social behaviour in check as at present there are many people who break the law in minor ways on a weekly basis by disturbing the peace, menacing people in gangs etc, as well as those people who get drunk and start fights all of the time.