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Supreme Court rejects government appeal against minor convictions

The supreme court has rejected Home Office appeals over a criminal record scheme which has seen many people lose jobs because of past convictions they received as young offenders.

The judges overruled the government scheme in favour of individuals who said their lives had been blighted by petty crimes they committed when they were children, including stealing a sandwich and not wearing a seatbelt.

The Guardian revealed that Lord Sumption branded the scheme ‘disproportionate’ on two counts comprising the way in which it required disclosure for multiple convictions even if they were minor. It also failed to distinguish the difference between reprimands and warnings as opposed to convictions.

One of the claimants, a woman known in the courts as P, was charged with shoplifting a 99p book in 1999 while homeless and suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness.

The woman was bailed and asked to appear before magistrates 18 days later, however, due to her personal circumstances, she failed to attend court and subsequently ended up with two convictions and a conditional discharge.

P wanted to work as a teaching assistant and had sought voluntary positions, however, each application required her to disclose all historic convictions and reveal details of her medical history in an attempt to explain her current circumstances.

The claimant, represented by Human Rights group Liberty, told The Guardian that she was relieved the case was over, but urged that the law needed to change to enable her to ‘move on, to work and finally make plans for the future’.

Corey Stoughton, advocacy director for Liberty said: ‘P made a mistake a long time ago and has been unfairly punished ever since…using broad bureaucratic rules that deny people meaningful careers by forcing them to carry a scarlet letter for life is both cruel and pointless’.

The supreme court also rejected the government’s appeal in a case regarding a man only known as G who was arrested at the age of 11 for sexually assaulting two younger boys with offences involving sexual touching and attempted intercourse.

Judges recalled that police records indicate the sexual activity was consensual and carried out as ‘dares’ from sexual curiosity and experimentation on the part of all three boys.

However, as a result the man lost his job as a college library assistant after employers demanded an Enhanced criminal record check.

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of Just for Kids Law told The Guardian that the disclosure of reprimands and cautions is ‘disproportionate and damaging to the future rehabilitation of children, preventing them from moving on from their past’.

Christopher Stacey , the co-director of Unlock, added that the decision is a crucial step towards changing the law and creating a fairer filtering system, but urged that ‘it is now time for the government to act’.