‘Sealing’ criminal records, report to suggest

Labour MP, David Lammy, was asked by David Cameron to investigate the justice system’s treatment of black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups in the UK (1).

This week (w/c 4/9/17), the report that has come out of this investigation will be published. It recommends that ex-offenders who can prove that they are rehabilitated should, depending on the time elapsed since their offences, be allowed to ‘seal’ their criminal records; prospective employers would not be allowed to see them or ask to see them, though the record would still exist.

This, the report will suggest, would increase the number of ex-offenders applying for and gaining meaningful employment.

An untapped ‘talent pool’

Research has shown that:

  • 10 million adults in the UK have criminal records (2)
  • Employment can reduce the rate of reoffending by up to 50% (3)
  • 12% of employers have employed someone with a criminal record in the past three years (4)

Clearly, there is a huge pool of people who are not being employed when it would greatly benefit them and society. Not only that, employing ex-offenders can be beneficial to an organisation.

When giving oral evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, senior members of staff from Virgin Trains and Timpson – who actively hire people with criminal records – described ex-offenders as an untapped ‘talent pool’ who were usually ‘loyal and productive employees’, ‘quite the opposite’ of more stereotypical perceptions, and who ‘added value’ to businesses.

They pointed out the value that such individuals added to their businesses; Darren Burns from Virgin Trains said that ‘if it was not good for business, we would stop doing it tomorrow’. Notably, they also highlighted the moral aspects of hiring an ex-offender, calling it ‘the right thing to do’.

Building Skills, Opportunities and Success: The BOSS Project

The Wallich is making its own efforts to improve the prospects of ex-offenders in South Wales, who often find the idea of applying for jobs a daunting one.

For several months now, the Building Opportunities, Skills and Success (BOSS) Project has been working with ex-offenders and employers, engaging with both to help individuals with criminal records find work.

Boss Mentors start working with individuals before their release from prison. Clients attend employability and entrepreneurship workshops covering employability skills, body language, and more.

Mentors provide transitional ‘through the gate’ employment support; they work with clients in the community post-release whilst they are finding employment, and continue to support them once they have successfully found work.

BOSS Mentors can also provide support for clients looking to gain industry-standard qualifications or need specific equipment for their jobs (such as safety gear for building work).

Helping employers understand the benefits of hiring ex-offenders is exactly what The Wallich’s Big Lottery Funded BOSS Project aims to do.

By supporting ex-offenders through the transition from prison to ‘life on the outside’ and engaging with employers to convince them of the benefits of hiring ex-offenders, we are convinced we can make a real difference when it comes offending in Wales.

We have already achieved great results by working with ACORN Recruitment and the multinational construction firm ISG, to name just two.

We think it is important that the issue of helping to facilitate the re-entry of rehabilitated ex-offenders into employment is being discussed openly in the media and by policymakers. The BOSS Project is part of The Wallich’s contribution to what needs to be a concerted and honest examination of this issue.


(1) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ex-offenders-hide-crimial-records-seal-job-interviews-employers-david-lammy-report-ministry-justice-a7928491.html

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ex-offenders-to-be-allowed-to-hide-past-8q602c8t2 (Article behind a paywall)

(2) https://www.bitc.org.uk/system/files/who_are_ex-offenders_-_employer_factsheet_0.pdf

(3) http://www.bristol.ac.uk/poverty/downloads/keyofficialdocuments/Reducing%20Reoffending.pdf

(4) http://womensbreakout.org.uk/facts/12-of-employers-surveyed-said-that-they-had-employed-somebody-with-a-criminal-record-in-the-past-three-years/

(5) https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmworpen/58/5807.htm (see the section headed ‘The benefits for employers)

Click here to read more topical blog posts from The Wallich’s Public Affairs and Policy team.