An update on today’s historic changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Today is an historic day for Unlock. We’ve campaigned for many years to see changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It’s the first time in nearly 40 years since the legislation has been reformed in this way. It’s been quite a wait since the law received Royal Assent in 2012, but we’re delighted that we’ve finally got there.

Since we got notice of the implementation date, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make sure that we do all that we can to prepare for the changes.

We are also firmly of the belief that the changes don’t go far enough, and we’ve been doing a lot of work to try and make this clear.

The reason for this message is to set out the various things we’ve been working on. An ongoing update on the changes, in terms of what’s happening, is available at hub.unlock.org.uk/changestotheroa/.

Updating our guidance

We’ve produced detailed guidance on the law as it now stands. This is quite lengthy, and focuses on some of the more technical aspects of the changes. We will be regularly reviewing and updating this as and when appropriate.

Producing practical materials

We’ve also produced practical materials that help to explain the changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which came into force on the 10th March 2014. These resources will help you to understand whether convictions are now regarded as ‘spent’ under the reforms. They include:

  1. An ‘Is it spent?’ poster
  2. A brief guide

These are available to view online on our information hub, and you can download copies free of charge from the downloads section of our information hub.

Updating our Disclosure Calculator

We have updated our online tool, www.disclosurecalculator.org.uk, which helps people to work out whether their convictions are spent under the Act.

We’re still working on improving it further, so that it works better under the new law. For example, at the moment, it can only calculator prison sentences using months (not days or weeks) but we hope to rectify this soon. More details of some of the outstanding technical queries are explained below.

Raising awareness

We have been doing our best to try and make people aware of these changes, both in terms of how people will benefit and how the changes could (and should) got further.

Late last week, we issued a press release, and we’re keen to take part in any opportunities that are available where we can spread the word about these changes so that people understand their legal rights.

We’ve written articles for Criminal Law & Justice Weekly and Open Democracy. We’ve also written a blog for our online magazine, theRecord, asking whether the changes are enough.

For prisons in particular, we’ve recorded a piece for National Prison Radio, which will go out in the Prime Time slot. We’ve also submitted something for the next issue of Inside Time.

More broadly, we’re sending out our materials to prisons, probation areas, job centres, employment support programmes and voluntary agencies. You can download copies free of charge from the downloads section of our information hub, where you can also find out how to get hold of hard-copies.

If you know of people and organisations that might value this information, please forward them a link to this update.

Supporting practitioners and organisations – Running ‘Masterclasses’

To help share our knowledge and understanding of these changes, we’re running various masterclasses for practitioners and organisations. The one we’re holding in March is now sold out, and we’ve only got a few places left on our one on the 7th May, so book your place before you miss out. More details can be found here.

If you’re part of a project or service that has a number of people providing advice and support to people who have convictions, you might want to organise an ‘in-house’ masterclass, which can be for up to 10 individuals and works out cheaper per person that the bookable sessions. We’ve already got a number of these arranged for the coming months. More details can be found here.

Information session

We were delighted to run an information session in Maidstone last week, where we had various people turn up who, as a result of these changes, have found that their convictions will become spent much earlier. Quite a few found that their convictions become spent on the 10th March itself.

Technical queries

We are keeping a track of the technical elements to the Act that we are awaiting clarification from the Ministry of Justice on. This is a useful reference when reading our guidance or using our Disclosure Calculator. We will be adding to this based on the queries that we receive, and providing updates as and when we have them available.

Working with others

Business in the Community

We’ve worked with Business in the Community, who has produced a Guide and Top Tips for telling an employer about your criminal record

This guidance is for people with criminal convictions and their advisers. If you (or the person you support) want to get back to work but are worried about disclosing a criminal conviction, this accessible guidance helps you to:

  • Understand your criminal record
  • Check when you need to tell an employer about your criminal conviction(s)
  • Decide how you will tell an employer about your conviction(s)

Download the resources from the Business in the Community website (link with be live at some point on Monday 10th).

Ministry of Justice

We have been working closely with the Ministry of Justice on their guidance on the changes to the ROA. Although it’s not written in the style that we would choose, we provided comments on earlier draft versions to make sure that it was as clear as possible, and will continue to raise queries on an ongoing basis in the hope that they will clarify their guidance further (see outstanding technical queries below).

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Christopher Stacey