Please see below an update that we have received from the Ministry of Justice late last week regarding planned changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
Although we’re disappointed to bring you this news, we felt it was important to provide an update as soon as we knew that the situation had formally changed. This will not come as a surprise to some – the lack of an update from Government has led many people to rightly question whether the changes were going to come in by November. A thread has been running on our forum since January this year, questioning originally whether the changes were going to come in by Spring 2013.
Sadly, while it’s frustrating that it is no longer going to be November, the situation is undoubtedly made worse by the lack of a specific future date. To put it simply, although they are optimistic that they will be able to put an end to the uncertainty on the date of commencement fairly soon, they are still unable to give a definite timetable.
In our view, the combination of a delay plus the lack of a specific delay is unforgivable. When the initial reforms were passed in April 2012, a 12 month window was given to allow the Government time to get the necessary systems in place. The initial implementation date of Spring 2013 led to many people planning their lives on these changes. Our Helpline has been inundated with enquiries ever since from people who are desperately waiting for the changes to come in.
We are continuing to do all that we can so that the Government implement the reforms as soon as possible. We are urging the Government to announce a specific date for when the changes will be introduced. We are also meeting with MP’s with an interest on this issue to see what can be done to speed up this process.
To help, we encourage anybody who is personally affected by these delays, or feels passionately about the way this is being managed by Government, to write to their MP and ask them to raise this issue as a matter of priority with the Ministers of State for both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. You can encourage your MP’s office to contact us directly if they want to help in some way. Ultimately, it’s important that the Government realise how important these changes are, and how many peoples’ lives are being put on hold by these delays. However, the difficulty at this stage is in finding practical ways in which this process can influenced.
Update from the Ministry of Justice
Whilst the Government was aiming to commence the reforms by November this is not going to be possible but it remains committed to seeing these reforms in place, which will to the benefit of many ex-offenders, and it will give a firm timetable on commencement as soon as it can. As you know, the critical prerequisite for the commencement of the reforms is to put in place a system for producing basic disclosure certificates, which show unspent convictions, reflecting the new rehabilitation periods in England and Wales. Until we do that there would be no way for an individual to obtain an official statement of their unspent convictions under the new rules.
Currently, basic disclosures reflecting the existing rehabilitation periods are available from Disclosure Scotland and this service is provided to residents of England and Wales as well as Scotland. However, the reforms to the ROA only revise rehabilitation periods for England and Wales, leaving the position in Scotland unchanged under its legislation. This complicates matters and creates two different rehabilitation regimes within Great Britain.
One option to address this situation is to agree with Disclosure Scotland that they will provide two differential basic disclosure services, one reflecting the rules in Scotland and the other the rules in England and Wales. Another option is for the Disclosure and Barring Service to initiate a basic disclosure service for England and Wales which adheres to the reformed rules in this jurisdiction. Neither of these options is straightforward and there are significant business and technical issues to work through. However, the Government expects these issues to be resolved shortly.”