Ex-offender backs plans to reduce conviction disclosure time

Offenders have to disclose crimes long after leaving prison.Picture: John Devlin
Offenders have to disclose crimes long after leaving prison.Picture: John Devlin
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A former prisoner has backed proposals to reduce disclosure times for past convictions, saying he continues to feel penalised for a crime committed nearly 20 years ago.

MSPs are currently considering legislation which would reduce the length of time many of those with convictions have to reveal their offending history.

Under the provisions of the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill, an adult who served a custodial sentence of between two-and-a-half and four years will only have to disclose their conviction for six years after serving their sentence – not indefinitely, as is the law currently.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, a former offender said the law change would make it easier for those undergoing rehabilitation to live a normal life.

He said: “Many years ago, in 2001, I was convicted to 36 months in prison for assault to severe injury.

“I have since then transformed my life around. Happily married with three wonderful children, I own my home and run a successful business.

“However, due to the current act, my conviction is never classed as spent. Although I have served my time, 17 years later I am still being penalised for something that happened whilst I was young.”

He added: “I am totally remorseful for what happened and feel that I was ­certainly rehabilitated whilst in prison.”

He said he continued to be penalised by having to pay higher motor and home insurance premiums, for example.

Is thought that roughly one in three men and one in ten women in Scotland have a criminal conviction. Under the proposed legislation, anyone who served a custodial sentence of more than four years will continue to have to disclose their offending.

In its submission on the legislation, the Edinburgh Bar Association said: “The Association would observe that the rules of disclosure of convictions at present are complex and many people find them difficult to understand. Simplification of the rules would be welcomed.

“Solicitors are often asked whether a conviction would be considered ‘spent’, as lay persons find the information difficult to access and understand.

“We also consider that it is of benefit to the offender and the public to reduce the period of time in which a conviction is ‘spent’ and to allow sentences of up to 48 months to become ‘spent’.”

The legislation also contains proposals to extend electronic monitoring of offenders.