A review of the sentencing system found that a critical element in reducing offending was having access to employment. Having unspent convictions can be a barrier to gaining employment, so the proposal is to change the law to reduce the number of people required to disclose convictions.
Once an individual’s conviction is spent, they are considered, save for the exceptions below, as fully rehabilitated and treated as if they never had the conviction.
The current system
All cautions and convictions eventually become spent, except for prison sentences over 30 months.
- A simple caution is spent immediately;
- community sentences after the order plus one year;
- imprisonment of less than 6 months is spent after 2 years;
- imprisonment between 6 months and 30 months is spent after 4 years;
- imprisonment between 30 months and 4 years is spent after 7 years; and
- imprisonment over 4 years, the conviction is never spent.
In general terms, all the rehabilitation periods are halved for those aged under 18 at the time of conviction. This recognises that children who offend are often vulnerable and still maturing.
There are still occasions when spent convictions have to be declared. These primarily relate to sensitive areas such as work with children or vulnerable adults, the law and high-level financial positions.
The most significant proposal is to remove the rule that convictions involving a sentence over 4 years can never become spent. This will not apply, however, to convictions for serious sexual, violent and terrorist offences.
- A community order will be spent on the last day of the order;
- imprisonment of 1 year or less will be spent after 1 year;
- imprisonment between 1 year and 4 years will be spent after 4 years; and
- imprisonment of more than 4 years will be spent after 7 years.
The rehabilitation period in respect of those convicted under the age of 18 will be half of those for adults.
The same principles will apply that even spent convictions will need to be declared in certain situations.
What difference will this make?
More than half of employers have said that they would not employ someone with a criminal record. Currently, someone who committed a serious offence of theft 20 years ago, and who has not re-offended since, would have to declare that conviction. Under the new proposals, they may not have to.
Is any other action being taken?
A Prison Leaver Project was announced last year which aims to assist those leaving prison. The government says this will provide £20 million of funding to support local leadership and identify new ways of tackling re-offending.
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If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.[Image credit: “Forgive.” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0] Read More
On Sunday 7 June protesters in Bristol tore down the statue of Edward Colston. It was swiftly deposited it in the local harbour. What many will see as being wholly justifiable, some will see as criminal damage.
The statute had been in situ for 125 years and had previously attracted a petition of over 10,000 names calling for its removal. This is due to Colston’s close connection to the slave trade.
The Home Secretary made this comment:
‘Sheer vandalism and disorder is completely unacceptable and its right the police follow up on that and make sure justice is undertaken.’
In contrast, the Mayor of Bristol commented:
‘I think that there’s a really incredible opportunity to talk about ourselves and to make a decision about what we think should go on a plinth in the city to tell us about who we are, not just who we are but who we want to be and to really use that as a place to celebrate something about ourselves, the best of ourselves. What I would look forward to is having that city discussion. In the meantime it’s highly likely that the Colston statue will end up in one of our museums.’
Was any offence committed?
The statue appears to be in the ownership/control of the City of Bristol. On that assumption, the Criminal Damage Act 1971 applies. It is difficult to envisage any sensible defence to the charge (see Kelleher  EWCA Crim 3525).
The value of the statue will significantly exceed £5,000. As a result, the offence is one that carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years. In addition, anyone convicted could face a hefty compensation claim to put right any damage.
Whilst many people will wonder why the statue remained in place given Colston’s tarnished reputation, it is likely that the courts will nonetheless take a dim view of the protesters actions, and possibly seek to discourage further like activity, mainly as there are probably many hundreds, if not thousands, of similar statues in our public places.
Deterrence may play an essential part in any sentencing exercise.
In 2003 Paul Kelleher was convicted after damaging a statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The court recording the following facts:
‘…on 3 July 2002 he visited the Guildhall Gallery, which houses the Corporation of London art collection, armed with a cricket bat and with the Intention of knocking the head off a statue of Lady Thatcher, that statue being on temporary loan from the House of Commons. The cricket bat proving ineffectual, Mr Kelleher took hold of a metal stanchion, which supported the cordon round the statue, and with that was able to achieve his purpose. We understand that the statue was damaged beyond repair and will cost £150,000 to replace.’
Kelleher received a sentence of imprisonment of 3 months. That was never the subject of any appeal (unlike the conviction), so we do not know what the Court of Appeal thought of the sentence. Many commentators at the time believed the sentence to be somewhat lenient.
Sentencing Guidelines for Criminal Damage
In terms of current sentencing guidelines, we can see that there is a high degree of culpability (High degree of planning or premeditation and Intention to cause very serious damage to property), and the offence possibly falls into the higher harm category (Serious consequential economic or social impact of offence).
Assuming some successful argument on the latter point, we get to a starting point of around six months. This is higher in length that Kelleher, but not substantially so.
Anyone convicted of this offence is at risk of a custodial sentence, with no certainty that it would be suspended.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.Read More