The Electoral Commission have launched their guides for Candidates and Agents in the Police and Crime Commissioner election – required reading, but it has only just happened, so don’t expect me to have a comprehensive knowledge just yet.
One thing did catch my eye though. The first guide has the functional title of ‘Can you stand for election?‘, so I rapidly clicked my way to the bit that talks about imprisonable offences – not much new there, except this :- “The draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions)(Amendment)(England and Wales) Order 2012 allows for spent convictions to be grounds for disqualification. While the Order had not been made by the time this guidance was published, we expect it to be in place in time for the first Police and Crime Commissioner election on 15 November 2012.” Now, I’ve checked, and it looks innocent enough – merely clarifying that returning officers can ask about ‘spent’ convictions, and candidates have to ‘fess up to them.
However, if Michael Crick is right about Dominic Grieve, and numerous government figures being relaxed about Simon Weston being able to stand, will this piece of secondary legislation be amended to give a route for the issue to be addressed – a sort of “get out of having-once-been-at-risk-of-jail” card?
I know this is speculation – but that’s what you get when you leave these big questions hanging in the air, and as the guide ends by pointing out the threat of prosecution for making false statements about disqualifications to the Returning Officer, and then adds “The Police Area Returning Officer may not be able to confirm whether or not you are disqualified”, one wonders if we really are leaving finality on this to the courts.
Nelson Mandela was a convicted For Treason, illegal exit from the country and incitement to strike, later sabotage he spent 27.5 yeas in jail.
Convictions and work
Once a conviction is ‘spent’, the convicted person does not have to reveal it or admit its existence in most circumstances. As a job applicant they have no legal obligation to reveal a spent conviction and it is illegal for an employer to ask whether an applicant has any spent convictions.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 applies to England, Scotland and Wales, and is aimed at helping people who have been convicted of a criminal offence and who have not re-offended since.
Convictions that carry a sentence of 30 months imprisonment or less will become spent after a certain period of time. This period is known as a rehabilitation period and varies in length according to the severity of the penalty.
If the person does not re-offend during this rehabilitation period their conviction becomes ‘spent’. The individual is considered to have put their criminal past behind them and rehabilitated back into society.
Approved information is non-conviction information provided by the police from their local records. The Chief Police Officer from each force will decide what, if any, information to provide.Occasionally, the Chief Police Officer may decide it is necessary in the interests of the prevention or detection of crime to release additional information. This is provided in a separate letter which is sent to the counter signatory and should not be revealed to the applicant without the Chief Police Officer’s consent.
.Recruiting ex-offenders from the Home Office.
You should not discount someone from a job just because they have a criminal conviction. If your business uses CRB checks in the recruitment process, you must have a policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders. This policy must be available if requested as part of the recruitment process.
An important factor in reducing the rates of re-offending is finding a job. Evidence based on research shows that many offenders who get jobs are reliable and committed employees. Ex-offenders can often be loyal and hard-working, tending to stay with one employer.
As the disqualification is in primary legislation, secondary legislation can’t amend it…. So what the Act says will stay in place. Am pressing for certainty from the Home Office as current situation is ridiculous.
That’s as I thought then, Ros. We agree completely.