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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.[Image credit: “Forgive.” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0] Read More
We talk a lot in this Country about the benefits of a jury trial, how leaving the decision in the hands of 12 people chosen at random, is the fairest way of securing justice, but how does a jury decide?
There is a lot that we do not know
Ironically, the process of how a jury reaches its decision is unknown as laws prevent us examining jury decisions and questioning them on their findings.
There are lots of academic studies, but in reality, they shed little light on the process.
What we do know however is the legal process that guides them in their decision making and despite the lack of ‘hard proof.’ most lawyers actively support trial by jury.
The internet age
The power of Google and new networking spaces such as Facebook and Twitter can present challenges to a jury trial if jurors seek information from these sources. There is a good reason why certain information is withheld from a jury (for example previous convictions), and going behind explicit instructions not to discuss evidence with anyone other than a fellow juror when the jury is assembled, or seeking information from external sources, undermines jury trial.
For this reason, jurors will be given clear warnings throughout the trial process.
We start with 12
We always start with 12; no criminal jury trial can commence with fewer jurors. Unlike in America, there is no selection process. Neither the prosecution nor the defence can object to a particular juror.
For lots of reasons, however, a trial does not always finish with 12. Jurors may become sick and be unable to return, or in rare cases, they may be removed from a jury due to some misconduct during the trial. As long as the number of jurors does not fall below 9, a verdict can be reached.
A unanimous verdict
At all times, the Judge will be seeking a unanimous verdict from the jury, that is a verdict upon which all the jurors are agreed, so either guilty or not guilty.
In the early stages of deliberation, a Judge is prevented by law from accepting a majority verdict, but the time may come when a majority decision is permissible. The timing of that will depend very much on the facts of the particular case.
When a majority verdict becomes permissible, the jury will be brought back into court and advised accordingly. However, even at that stage, they will be asked to still arrive at a unanimous verdict if that is possible. If it is not possible, then a majority verdict will be acceptable.
On occasion, it will become apparent to the Judge that the jury cannot reach a verdict, even a majority one. The Judge will often know this as the jury will write a note to explain the situation. The contents of that note will usually not be shared with the advocates, and this is often because ‘it contains numbers’, i.e. how many jurors are voting one way or the other. Such notes remain confidential in all trials.
When a deadlock occurs a ‘give and take’ direction will be given, calling upon all jurors to use their collective wisdom to reach a decision.
If the jury reaches a unanimous verdict the issue is settled, but if not, and the time is appropriate for a majority verdict, a majority may be acceptable.
Whether a majority verdict is acceptable depends on the balance of votes, which in turn depends on how many jurors remain.
The combinations are:
Where there are 12 jurors: 11 – 1 or 10 – 2
Where there are 11 jurors: 10 -1
Where there are 10 jurors: 9 – 1
(where the jury falls to 9 jurors, only a unanimous verdict is acceptable).
If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant is free to leave court (assuming that there are no other matters remaining), if guilty, the judge will go on to consider sentencing.
Back to deadlock
If despite further deliberation it becomes clear that the jury is deadlocked, the jury will be discharged, and the trial will be over.
In these circumstances, the prosecution may either proceed with a new trial or abandon the trial (for example where it is clear at that stage that the evidence is weak).
How we can assist
We realise that the trial process can be difficult for both our clients and their families. We work hard at all stages to explain what is going on and what will happen next.
It is your case and you ought not to be reduced to a mere bystander as the legal process occurs around you.
As experienced trial lawyers, we do not lose sight of the person behind the proceedings.
If you would like advice about a criminal case, please contact us on 020 7388 1658, or email@example.com.Read More