October 26th, 2009

Longer than life sentence

Posted in The Job - General by 200

When a particular individual applied for a job, he was upset to find out that a conviction for the theft of a 99p packet of meat 25 years ago in 1984, was still on his record.

Five people in similar situation took their case to the High Court arguing that the Data Protection Act stated that any information held on them (by the police on this occasion) must be relevant, up to date & not excessive. Presumably they argued that a minor conviction 25 years earlier was none of the above.

Initially, the court ruled in their favour that such records should be expunged from police databases but the case moved to the Court of Appeal who ruled that police will now be able to keep records of minor convictions for up to 100 years. It’s thought that details of a million convictions which can be disclosed in checks by potential employers will now not be deleted. Judges ruled that the need to keep the information for fighting crime justified the policy despite any distress it might cause.

You might argue that if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime but I think I’d have some sympathy for someone who was denied a job because they stole a packet of bacon 40 years ago.

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22 comments

  1. Fee says:

    I’ve never been arrested, never mind convicted, but I always thought that minor offences were “spent” after a certain time and were deleted? Or was that back in the good old days?

    So much for rehabilitation, if some minor hiccup can still be haunting you 100 years later (by which time you’re more than likely dead, anyway, and will be past caring).

    October 26th, 2009 at 14:34

  2. the_leander says:

    A lad I know went to the G20 protests, he was 16 years old. Didn’t do anything wrong (so far as I’m aware), just went to the protests. Was stopped by the police (as many were) and he handed over his details – hey, he hadn’t done anything wrong and had nothing to hide.

    A week after his return to Plymouth the police arrived in force. Searched his house and arrested (but not charged) him under the terrorism act. A week later he was released, along with a half dozen others who had similar stories to tell. No charges for anyone, but the police did a bang up job of playing the terrorism angle to it’s fullest to the local media.

    In days gone by, nothing more would come of it, but as more and more jobs these days include the line “subject to enhanced disclosure” on the description such an arrest can now effectively render a person unemployable (seriously, how many employers are going to hire someone who was viewed by the authorities as a terrorist?)

    I do wonder if one of the fallouts for this will be not only a chilling effect on protests, but for those who are arrested spuriously the possibility of civil actions that could bankrupt police forces…

    The whole issue of extreme data retention just seems to me to be a door that should never have been touched, much less opened.

    October 26th, 2009 at 14:35

  3. Blue Eyes says:

    Presumably the potential employer is also informed of the “scale” of the conviction? If so, then it would be up to them to decide whether it affects the person’s suitability for the job at stake.

    I am instinctively against the disclosure of such information. Can’t the authorities find a way to store it for their purposes but not pass it on when a check is done? Hardly rocket science.

    October 26th, 2009 at 15:33

  4. Tony F says:

    If the conviction had been spent, then what is the reason for keeping it on any database? May be a bit different with persistent offenders, but of course their most recent offences will be, er, recent?

    October 26th, 2009 at 18:22

  5. copper bottom says:

    blue eyes is correct…

    its down to the employer…

    also…

    if you send the message that convictions will disappear after a few years – what does that say?

    we keep records for a reason… to show what people have done.

    October 26th, 2009 at 19:27

  6. the_leander says:

    “if you send the message that convictions will disappear after a few years – what does that say?”

    That if you keep your nose clean and sort your life out, you won’t be made to pay for a misspent youth.

    The alternative message, as shown by this judgement is simple: Once a criminal, always a criminal.

    Personally, I’d like to think as a society, we are still capable of forgiveness.

    October 27th, 2009 at 00:32

  7. Cogidubnus says:

    Tony F – I’m curious – Can convictions for fairly minor misdemeanours be “spent” ?

    October 27th, 2009 at 01:29

  8. Blueknight says:

    In an ideal world, the details of a conviction would stay on record for 5 yrs or so then it would be wiped. The criminal would not reoffend again so the conviction details would not be needed.
    In the real world criminls reoffend and details of a previous conviction can often narrow the number of suspects for a particular crime. Put simply, if a child is abducted or sexually assaulted, the Police often start by checking the movements of the local sex offenders.
    Criminal behaviour is complex. I understand that there is a link between arson and sex offending. I knew of one man who would steal children’s clothes. Not for any financial gain however. He got his sexual kicks by stuffing the clothes with newspapers and cloth to make a model of a child which he would masturbate on. He was undoubtedly a sex offender of sorts but his only convictions were for shoplifting.

    October 27th, 2009 at 01:44

  9. Von Spreuth. says:

    xx Fee says:

    I’ve never been arrested, never mind convicted, but I always thought that minor offences were “spent” after a certain time and were deleted? Or was that back in the good old days? xx

    For certain jobs there is no such thing as “spent”. The police USED to be so. As did Customs. I seem to remember my ex Wife, a bank clerk (hence EX. Any one ever been married to a bank clerk? Aye, you will know what I mean.)told me that any “dishonesty” offence could not be “spent”.

    So logic says they MUST be stored somewhere, and not, as every one seems to think, wiped off the records when the “tarrif” is up.

    People leaving the police force, as I did, demanding the fingerprints back. You think for ONE SECOND they do not make a copy first?

    October 27th, 2009 at 09:43

  10. Brother Random says:

    There’s an opportunity here for a forward thinking copper looking to get off the streets and into a cushy office position with an acronym.

    Protecting the Rights of the Long Term Unconvicted (PROLTU – snappy eh?)

    It’ll only take a couple of the above sob stories to the tabloids on a low news day to throw up a nice smokescreen of Commitee work for the fast mover. Surely the truly reformed shouldn’t be barred from sorting their lives out by a Draconian data storage by the evil government forces. It could tie in nicely with the soft option non custodial rubbish, very usful political points come election day.

    Somone tell me I’m being massively cynical and have the totally wrong idea.

    October 27th, 2009 at 11:43

  11. objet petit a says:

    Welcome to NuLab’s Britain.

    October 27th, 2009 at 14:56

  12. Tony F says:

    Cogidubnus, I had not thought of that. So you can commit murder, be free in 2.5 years and then be a ‘free’ man, and yet steal a pack of bacon, and it will hang over you for the rest of your life?

    Sounds about right.

    October 27th, 2009 at 21:00

  13. MarkUK says:

    I’m a bit “anti” regarding keeping certain records. Minor convictions (e.g. the pack of bacon) should be completely wiped after a few years without conviction. Obviously, if someone is reconvicted, all the current data should be retained until the latest conviction is spent.

    Serious crimes cannot be wiped. However, if only a caution is given, that immediately suggests that the crime is minor – otherwise, why not prosecute?

    DNA taken from a suspect who is never convicted, and particularly those never charged, should be wiped on release. In some cases, the police may feel that there is a need to keep the DNA. Fine; explain to a judge why you need to keep it, and let the ex-suspect’s brief tell the judge why you shouldn’t. At least that has a form of judicial review.

    October 27th, 2009 at 22:28

  14. Oi says:

    While not a computer expert, and I havnt given this a great deal of thought for “fish-hooks,” but it would seem to me that it would be entirely possible to have a certain class of, or specific offences, inactivated on the database after a certain time period, in such a way that a normal query wouldnt locate it.
    If, however, a new charge was entered for Joe-Scrote, it would reactivate the old conviction and display it in his history.

    October 28th, 2009 at 00:29

  15. copper bottom says:

    I have to agree with MARKUK…

    We should flag some offences- sexual and extreme violence… the rest should be deleted- however, I should remind you gentle reader, that offences committed during youth are cleared by the rehabilitation of offenders act…

    the only jobs that require FULL disclosure and extended CRB are those involving: security serv (mi5, mi6) and any job involving children or vulnerable people.

    most people could disclose to an ‘ordinary’ employer they had no convictions (re the bacon) and they would all be blissfully ignorant (and rightly so…)…

    but hospitals, schools etc are not ORDINARY employers…

    Now- knowing how people think – if an childrens home employer hired someone that had a conviction for a violent assault (kid v kid) and they went on to thump a kid… imagine the uproar?

    thats why they bin people.

    October 28th, 2009 at 10:52

  16. the_leander says:

    “We should flag some offences- sexual and extreme violence…”

    I don’t think anyone said otherwise. Or even implied it for that matter.

    “I should remind you gentle reader, that offences committed during youth are cleared by the rehabilitation of offenders act…”

    For how much longer? And does that apply to all offences (thinking back to my original example here).

    “most people could disclose to an ‘ordinary’ employer they had no convictions (re the bacon) and they would all be blissfully ignorant (and rightly so…)…”

    You’ve not been to a jobcentre recently I would imagine (well, other then to pick up some of their more unruly customers). Enhanced disclosures are becoming SOP right across the boards in almost all sectors.

    “Now- knowing how people think – if an childrens home employer hired someone that had a conviction for a violent assault (kid v kid) and they went on to thump a kid… imagine the uproar?”

    Hang fire here a second. One minute you’re pointing to the rehabilitation of offenders act saying it’d be clean slate time, now you’re saying this.

    So which is it because I’m confused here.

    October 29th, 2009 at 05:30

  17. copper bottom says:

    some jobs require enhanced CRB checks- like nursing for example- the rehabilitation of offenders act does not apply to those type of jobs – for obvious reasons.

    Some offences can be spent – under the act- some, as i indicated like sex crime -are not.

    look it up.

    I dont think people should be punished for minor criminal behaviour- however, i am only one little copper.

    October 29th, 2009 at 10:52

  18. the_leander says:

    Ok I understand that serious offences (sex crimes, I would imagine murder and particularly heinous violent assaults) fit the bill. I agree with you also with regard minor offences (and I’m sorry if my initial comments suggested a blanket clean slate).

    See, it’s all well and good you saying look it up, but being one of the honoured many in this country that received a state education, I’m sad to say they didn’t include GCSE legalese in the subjects(which quite frankly would have been a hell of a lot more use to me then Spanish was).

    Talking to someone with a working knowledge of the law and how it applies day to day is what I’m after here.

    Jobs that I’ve recently looked at that came with the words “requires enhanced disclosure” as part of the description include: Data entry clerk, general phone monkey, admin (this particularly varied category almost always contains the line), cleaner, librarian, in fact, even a well known fast food chain required it.

    I would add that this is a change that I didn’t see 4 years ago when I was last looking for work. Yes, some types as you say have always required it, but more and more it seems that it’s a requirement for even the most menial work imaginable.

    There was something else that as a copper you might be ideally placed to answer for me: “Domestic Extremists” – would those that get put on such a watchlist also show up under enhanced disclosure, do you know?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/28/old_graun_photo_sheet_featured_bae_agent/

    October 29th, 2009 at 13:55

  19. copper bottom says:

    ‘Enhanced disclosures are becoming SOP right across the boards in almost all sectors’

    not really a Police issue then… its down to employers demanding more data on their potential clients.

    It seems that you- as do many people- think that the Police are responsible for legal matters full stop.

    We dont create law- thats the job of MPs.

    Getting cranky about disclosure with the Police is getting cranky with the wrong people.

    October 29th, 2009 at 13:57

  20. copper bottom says:

    cleaner in a factory? nope…

    cleaner in a hospital – yup…

    librarian? do they have access to children and vulnerable people? yes…

    October 29th, 2009 at 18:20

  21. the_leander says:

    “not really a Police issue then… its down to employers demanding more data on their potential clients.”

    Never said it was, I was just pointing out the reality of the situation. Again I apologise if that is what seemed to be being implied.

    My point was, in this glorious age of ticking boxes and detection rates, that some of these issues come together to produce unforeseen and (one would hope) unintended consequences.

    “Getting cranky about disclosure with the Police is getting cranky with the wrong people.”

    Won’t argue that, but then I’m not getting cranky with the police on the matter, just about it in general. That said, there are specifics with this issue that I do get cranky with the police about as I pointed to with my first post and the bottom of the last.

    With regards MPs specifically, I think between 200, Inspector Gadget, PC Bloggs and Lex Ferenda (The Thinking Policemans blog) they’ve just about covered my feelings on them. (Broad contempt, with an increasingly large side order of irony poisoning every time they talk about morality).

    Perhaps you’re right about bringing concerns as specific as I have done WRT protests etc being outside the front line coppers purview, my apologies if that is the case.

    October 30th, 2009 at 05:13

  22. Cogidubnus says:

    Not6 being funny…would someone with some knowledge of it, kindly explain to me the effects of the “Rehabilitation of Offenders Act”

    thanks

    October 30th, 2009 at 23:31

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