Tag Archives: convictions

Scottish Consultation on reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

All of the proposed amendments can be implemented without delay. The original Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 was designed as a catch all and passed through parliament in 1974 without an exemptions order for care workers, nurses or taxi drivers etc. etc. etc., so the existing disclosure periods are excessive.

Modern technology including forensic science as well as improved child protection arrangements have allowed the courts to prosecute serious offences more often and to link serial offences more to the same individuals. This has resulted in longer sentencing (due to evidence capture of more crimes) and more appropriate supervision of people with convictions. This would have been impossible in 1974.

With the continuing existence of exclusions and exemptions to the 1974 Act for a wide range of professions and the modern public protection mechanisms from more serious offenders, we broadly agree with all of the proposals to change disclosure periods which have been set out in the proposals.

To allow even shorter and more realistic disclosure periods for most people with convictions would require structural changes within the Act, but we believe that all the proposals are consistent with the requirements for safe and sustainable employment and are suitable as a stop-gap until more robust primary legislation is implemented, which could properly contribute to the rehabilitation of people with convictions.

Further measures to protect and inform employers were implemented in the Police Act (Scotland) 1997, the creation of Disclosure Scotland and the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007. Combining the availability of this information and the advances in the internet, there has never been a time in history, when so much criminal record information has been available.

With these existing mechanisms as well as the provisions of MAPPA in the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Act 2005, the safety nets in the Scottish criminal justice system are robust enough to completely remove criminal record disclosure for work which is not currently defined in the Exclusions and Exemptions Order (Scotland) 2013.

Therefore all convictions could realistically become immediately spent without presenting substantial risk however we concede that the required caveats may be too complex for secondary legislation. This could be unpicked more fully within new primary legislation.

The proposals will allow Scotland to catch up with reforms which were implemented in England and Wales in March 2014. Those reforms are already making a significant contribution to; the performance of welfare to work, tackling poverty, improving public health and promoting a fairer and more equal society in England and Wales.

While these impacts are positive, “rehabilitation” is still omitted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, in that individuals who have not been reconvicted within their rehabilitation period could not reasonably still be described as ‘offenders’ and even if the proposals are implemented in full, the Act will still offer no protection for people with unspent convictions. This means that the proposals offer no immediate benefit or practical incentive to people when they leave prison.

Therefore we welcome an acknowledgement in this consultation paper that a broader consultation for new primary legislation is still required in Scotland as soon as possible.

The new consultation should seek to develop proposals for the following:
• Primary legislation with a title which is fit for purpose, such as the Opportunity to Compete Bill. The title of the 1974 Act conveys negative messages where citizens returning from prison are called “offenders” and it implies that they are not rehabilitated until considerable time periods have elapsed after their conviction. If disclosure is required then these rehabilitation periods would be better described as disclosure periods.
• A process of removing disclosure periods completely or reducing disclosure periods for more serious offences which is based on engagement in services, evidence of changed behaviour, risk benefits and the development of personal resilience. Within this there should be a presumption that nobody who is released from prison should face a lifetime of “disclosure” (or what is commonly described as a “second sentence”) without a process of appeal.
• A review of the exclusions and exceptions to the 1974 act where there is currently no protection for people from discrimination and stigma over very minor and very old convictions.
• The potential of a well designed quota based system where some employers would be required to employ people with unspent convictions. While quota systems are controversial and potentially beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament, this avenue should at least be open for discussion.
• A requirement for all recruiters (in receipt of disclosure information) to be properly trained to make proportionate decisions and for those recruiters to be empowered and authorised to select a person with a conviction or convictions if they are the right person for the job.
• A right for employers to be supported in risk assessment.
• Measures to consider mitigation of the “Google effect” where failure to ask about criminal history is not the same as avoiding discrimination as well as the complications in managing the confidentiality of spent convictions.
• Addressing the knowledge gap among many key workers about effective pathways to employment for people with convictions.
• Ensuring that all citizens have free, available and accessible information about what and when they need to disclose about their convictions for the purpose of employment. This should include the ability to undertake a check for the purposes of PVG prior to applying for a vocational course for “regulated work”.
• Implementation of Ban the Box processes where any disclosure requirements for the purposes of employment are delayed until after an individual has been selected for interview.
• A statutory right for people with convictions to access specialist support for enhancing skills and finding work which is tailored to their hopes and plans.
• A common sense approach to disclosure of convictions for breaches whereby the current proposals still create disclosure time spans which are excessive.
• Inconsistencies in the information available to employers based on which part of the world that an individual committed their crime. There is no evidence of any risk to employers created by the shortage of criminal history information on foreign nationals.

  • Additionally new legislation should seek to specifically find solutions for criminal records intersecting other employment barriers because the stigma of criminal convictions can be worsened for women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds and when the conviction intersects mental health problems. Similarly, conviction labels which include terms such as “racially aggravated” or “domestic” or relate to sex-offending, significantly impede opportunities to compete, even if they are minor offences and sentenced lightly.

This list is by no means exhaustive but highlights some of the limitations to the structure of the 1974 Act to support rehabilitation.

New legislation which supports people with convictions to find and keep meaningful employment, would undoubtedly make critical contributions to Scottish Government policy objectives for health inequalities, diversity, inclusion, poverty, economic development and welfare to work, as well as reducing re-offending.

Findings from Recruit With Conviction action research workshops show that disclosure of even minor criminal conviction can escalate anxiety in the mind of recruiters and this often leads to unfair and unreasonable de-selection. Similarly people with minor convictions often adopt avoidance behaviours when confronted with questions about criminal record disclosure and seek employment in situations where they are not asked, therefore diminishing their own opportunities for suitable employment.

Criminal convictions are most likely to statistically impact male unemployment and by comparing male unemployment trends between Scotland and rUK since the implementation of changes to the Act in rUK, we hope to illustrate potential impacts of reforming the Act.

This graph which was created using data from ONS. It shows a clear trend of Scotland performing ahead of the UK for male unemployment until March 2014 and then lagging behind after Westminster reduced disclosure requirements in England and Wales. This is interesting because it is consistent with Recruit With Conviction findings. Men are 3 times more likely to have a criminal conviction than women and convictions correlate much more closely with unemployed people.


Reports (1) on 31 May 2015 show that Scotland has the lowest female unemployment rate in Europe.

Using big social data like this creates risks for bad social science because causality is rarely able to be defined in correlations. So while this graph neatly illustrates a point, the qualitative evidence and the logic is more compelling and we accept that there are always many competing factors and the policies of targeting resources for female employment in Scotland is another likely contributing factor to the performance of men and women in the Scottish labour market.

It should be noted that while females with criminal convictions are less statistically significant, criminal conviction disclosure for woman is even more stigmatising and previous convictions have greater impact in the labour market for women individually.

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-32950469

Recruit With Conviction promotes safe and sustainable employment for people with criminal convictions by working with employers and employability specialists in workshops and ambassador networks. Each workshop aims to both disseminate information as well as inform the knowledgebase about effective practice.

While workshop participants start off with varying degrees of understanding, we strive to respect feelings of participants but challenge misconceived perceptions and promote equality, diversity and inclusion by threading through understanding of unconscious bias about other barriers to employment which are faced by our most vulnerable friends and neighbours.

Please take the time and make your response to the consultation which is available on the link http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/05/5592

Reform The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in Scotland

The name of the 1974 Act as it stands is an oxymoron in that it neither supports “offenders” nor “rehabilitation”. The extreme length of time before convictions become spent mean that no fair minded person could reasonably describe somebody with a spent conviction as an “offender”.

The 1974 Act currently provides no incentive for rehabilitation because convictions become spent automatically, regardless of an individual’s effort to change their lifestyle more quickly.

By excluding prison sentences of over 30 months, the 1974 Act also fails to recognise the human capacity for reform.

The inflexible “rehabilitation periods” which would be better described as “disclosure periods” are defined only by the court disposal. While the refinements laid out in LASPO 2012 by Westminster are an improvement, they miss the opportunity to provide incentives for reform, rehabilitation and compliance.

LASPO 2012 should be implemented for retrospective offences in Scotland, however the disposal is a very blunt instrument for defining “disclosure periods”.

“Disclosure periods” should be defined the time of sentencing by using LASPO as a guide and adding conditions for completing orders, paying fines and engaging in rehabilitation activities. Additionally a large number of “one-off” summary offences which have no employment relevance should become immediately spent on the proviso that they are a “one-off”. They should also be filtered from any disclosure for positions covered by the 2013 Order.

Similarly for prison sentences where longer “disclosure periods” are defined, the requirement to disclose should be linked with behavioural compliance in prison and be subject to appeal.

The 1974 Act has not accounted for changes in labour demand, recruitment methods, sentence inflation and increased availability of information about criminal histories during the 40 years since inception. While significant improvements have been made to legislation to protect vulnerable groups, the impact of having a conviction labelled as “racially aggravated”, “indecent”, “sexual” or “fire-raising”, exponentially diminish employment opportunities when compared against other convictions with similar disposals or similar risks to an employer.

The decline of manufacturing sectors with unionised protection has changed workplace dynamics and the modern employment landscape dominated by the service sector, has made recruiters more precious about brand. This in turn increases “conviction stereotype anxiety” among recruiters who are typically not trained, empowered or authorised to “recruit with conviction”.

Although Recruit With Conviction promotes honest disclosure processes, the availability of information legislated in the Police Act 1997 and PVG compounds the problem on a practical level. In particular Disclosure Scotland certificates give no contextual information and employers are left to decipher offences and disposals to corroborate a personal letter of disclosure from the individual. This is a burden for employers. Availability of information on the internet has also impacted negatively.

People with convictions have traditionally down-traded their skills and undertaken voluntary work in order to secure employment but current high unemployment has increased competition for such work. The requirement to disclose convictions creates an inequality of opportunity for local people seeking local jobs when competing with economic migrants for whom criminal record histories are less readily available. In contrast, the opportunity for Scots with convictions to escape their past by relocating to London or elsewhere in the UK has been hindered by the Police Act 1997 and the Internet.

Only a small minority of those labelled as “offenders” by the 1974 Act have served a custodial sentence, however parallel statistics from England and Wales (through a MoJ and DWP data linkage project in 2011) show that while 13% of prisoners were in P45 employment in the month before prison, only 5% were in P45 employment in the month after prison. Other evidence shows that most former prisoners, who find work, return to their previous employers. Those who are successful in finding employment, achieve this through their own networks of friends and family, rather than applying for them on the open job market.

The difficulty of finding work in the regular economy underpins labour supply in the illegal labour market which propagates organised crime and abuse by unscrupulous employers such as paying under minimum wage, non-compliance with other employment rights as well as the obvious tax evasion it supports.

Given that approximately 11,000 people were liberated by SPS last year, and that the DWP’s flagship universal work programme has sustained only 80 former prisoners into employment in Scotland (Work programme cumulative job outcomes in Scotland to September 2013), it is a minor miracle that a third of prisoners manage to avoid returning to custody in the 2 years after release, rather than a surprise that 2 thirds of them will return to prison.

The well documented “licence to lie” which the 1974 Act authorises, is absurd. It fails to recognise a job applicant wishing to be truthful and an employer seeking honesty. So the protection should include the way in which a question can be reasonably asked. For example “Do you have any unspent criminal convictions?” can be answered more in good faith while “Do you have a criminal record?” creates a potential obstacle the relationship between prospective employee and employer. Many people who have committed crime in their past, move forward by building trust with absolute integrity and truth. If the question is asked in the wrong way, then they can feel pressured to over disclose.

Over disclosure also occurs when information is not available to the individual or employer.

For the new Act to support access to employment opportunities for people with convictions, it needs to be considered and properly integrated into wider employment legislation and good recruitment practice. Recruit With Conviction is partnering a number of UK organisations to implement “Ban the Box” as policy among private sector employers as a code of practice.

“Ban the box” has been legislated for public sector employers in the USA using slightly different variants in different states. By delaying conviction disclosure to later in the recruitment process more people with convictions will get interview practice, more will get the opportunity to explain their convictions in person and ultimately more will get jobs and keep them. “Ban the Box” also removes the poor practice of pre-selection screening where individuals can be deselected automatically on the grounds of unspent convictions, regardless of their irrelevance to the post and before they can outline their employment attributes.

In Scotland, some public sector employers are currently the trailblazers in good practice with some notable exceptions and in many cases policy and practice are poles apart.

The privilege of exemption from the 1974 Act and outlined in the 2013 Order needs further exploration. It is clear that for the vast majority of people with summary convictions, that these offences are no proxy for future risk and disclosure of such convictions is an unnecessary burden and embarrassment for too many individuals.

It is particularly disappointing that employers in justice agencies such as the Scottish Police Service, Scottish Prison Service and Scottish Court Service appear to have a tendency to almost apply blanket bans (if anecdotal information is accurate). This would be an abuse of their privilege to be exempt from the 1974 Act – although not illegal. Justice agencies should be leaders of good practice because they understand risk, would benefit from the resulting improvement in diversity and could become credible ambassadors for the recruit with conviction concept among other employers.

Failure to “recruit with conviction” is a failure to recruit effectively. Like any cohort of people who are marginalised by a label, “people with convictions” are more likely to need additional support in getting employment but also as a cohort they are more likely to include untapped potential as an opportunity for the employer. For the sake of efficiency and diversity in the public sector, the “recruit with conviction” process should be legislated and encouraged throughout the public sector supply chain as a mandatory community benefit clause element.

Other obstructions to “recruiting with conviction” come from sloppy interpretation of guidance from the Financial Services Authority which invokes regulatory recruitment rules on the Finance Sector, CPNI regulations for recruitment in airports, utilities etc. and HMG Baseline Personnel Security Standards which enforce formal vetting processes for reserved civil service appointments and subcontractors in Scotland. Often these vetting processes are not backed up with credible HR strategies and individuals have been denied employment on the grounds on minor and irrelevant summary convictions. Guidance from FSA, CPNI and HMG Baseline Personnel Security Standards do not enforce blanket bans on people with unspent convictions; however there is a tendency for them to be interpreted very conservatively.

By contrast, the guidance for PVG is relatively clear although time periods for clearance and appeal can be excessive for some individuals. In caring and healthcare settings in Scotland, there has been an improvement in realistic assessment on the relevance of criminal records.

Significant reform is required and legislation is only one of the tools to achieve this. While the Recruit With Conviction campaign has been effective in promoting good recruitment and employability practice, the organisation is a social enterprise which is funded through the sale of workshops and has limited resources.

Employability services are also part of this required reform as standards are inconsistent. Too commonly minimum standards of guidance for criminal record relevance are not met and too often individuals start a course of training or study for work which is incompatible with their criminal record or their willingness to disclose it when spent. Advice to over-disclose spent convictions and advice to disclose non-conviction information occurs needlessly. This is partly due to the complexity of the legislation as well as training needs.

Beyond this, specialist employability services for people with more complex offending histories have become marginalised by commissioning which is reliant on bean counting outcomes rather than promoting assets based approaches to quality support. While the right job for the right person at the right employer at the right time is life changing – the wrong job is a bad outcome.

Cons to Cobblers

James Timpson, CEO of Timpsons is a distinguished speaker on business leadership, so we are delighted that our colleagues at Howard League Scotland have organised a lecture on Tuesday 28th January in Edinburgh.

“Cons to Cobblers” promises to give a unique insight into the employment of people from prison and importantly keeps the conversation alive for businesses to Recruit With Conviction.

Please help to promote this event and bring some sceptics with you too.

For details see the link.



Recruit With Conviction Highlights – 2013

The Recruit With Conviction team had a fantastic year in 2013 and we want to share a few of the highlights with you. Here are our top 10.

Thanks to all of our amazing advisers, partners and businesses for making all this possible:

1. Recruit With Conviction engaged hundreds of employers to promote safe, fair and effective recruitment of people with criminal records.

2. Right Honourable Kenny McAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice in
Scotland launched Recruit With Conviction employer discussion events on
changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

3. We supported the development of Ban the Box in London in partnership with Business in the Community, UNLOCK, Howard League, Criminal Justice Alliance and Barrow Cadbury Trust.

4. We delivered a full programme of Apply With Conviction workshops in the North West of England to Job Centre Plus advisers, substance abuse specialists and work programme advisers to help improve services for people with convictions.

5. We reinvested over 2000 consultant hours pro-bono for the development of our wider social aims.

6. We facilitated successful employer events in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Irvine and Inverness.

7. We visited Potenza in Italy for the start of a new transnational European
programme with Italian and Romanian partners. This will focus on education towards employment.

8. We developed strategic partnerships with No-Offence CIC, Apex, Scottish Business in the Community and Scottish Family Business Association. We have also developed many other relationships with other great organisations.

9. We secured positive media coverage for our campaign including BBC TV news and national newspapers

10.  We made a crucial contribution to diversity, improved recruitment practice and the reduction of re-offending.

A clarion call for employment of ex-offenders


“In the face of rising unemployment, St Giles Trust Chief Executive Rob Owen sets out why companies should not disregard people with a criminal record.

WITH my former career in the City, I’ve always been hammering on about how corporates should support our work.  Recently, we’ve been lucky to benefit from the support of two very prestigious companies – investment firm Liberum through their newly established charitable trust and global accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers”…………..

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Hiring ex-offenders and homeless morally right, says M&S


English: Logo of Marks & Spencer
Image via Wikipedia


It also makes good business sense!!!

“Hiring people from disadvantaged groups is not only “ethically right” but benefits business performance, according to the HR director of Marks and Spencer.Speaking at the Talent Pipeline Conference , organised by the Employers Forum on Age and Employers Forum on Belief, Tanith Dodge outlined how the retailer encouraged a workforce diverse in age, and was working with the third sector to deliver development programmes for ex-offenders, homeless people and school leavers. ”

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Negativity remains toward ex-offenders



“The performance of ex-offenders contravenes perception among employers which have no experience working with them. Research by Working Links found 77% of resourcing professionals that had not hired ex-offenders thought that these candidates would be less or much less honest, and 42% thought that they would be less conscientious. However, only 7% of employers who have hired ex-offenders said they had a negative experience.”…

Ex-offenders’ bosses feel their work is legit


A third of employers have taken on an ex-offender in their company, with over half rating their experiences as positive, according to a survey from the consultancy CfBT Education Trust.”…


Consistent with what we know. There is a great underused pool of talent.

Employing more ex-offenders – Richard’s Blog – Virgin.com

Employing more ex-offenders – Richard’s Blog – Virgin.com.

“I would like to encourage more companies to proactively recruit ex-offenders. Our experience of this within Virgin has been wholly positive – particularly when working with organisations such as Working Chance, who offer restorative recruitment for women offenders.

I believe our society should do more to support positive initiatives to encourage the rehabilitation of prisoners. We should create more chances for people who have been in jail to make a positive contribution to the workforce.

In Australia, Toll, the transport and logistics group – working with WISE Employment – makes a point of doing exactly this and has employed a number of former prisoners. In the UK, Timpson, the key cutting and shoe repair business, has created a successful programme too.

If many more companies could follow their example then many more ex-offenders would be able to find a purpose in life, worthwhile employment – and everyone would benefit.

Research has shown that most ex-offenders are more committed and willing to do more than just the job. They are grateful for the opportunity to do something worthwhile rather than falling back on their former ways and circumstances.

People often start offending because of an unfortunate upbringing or bad circumstances within their families. Maybe a good employer and the positive influence of work colleagues can, in part, be a replacement for a dysfunctional family.”