Some convicted killers, sex offenders and drug dealers will effectively have their criminal records wiped under new plans to help ex-offenders “turn their lives around”.
Those sentenced to more than four years behind bars currently have to disclose their conviction to employers for the rest of their life, including for offences committed as a child.
But David Gauke, the justice secretary, wants to scrap the rule to make it easier for ex-offenders to get a job.
The law change will not apply to offences attracting the most serious sentences, including life, or for serious sexual, violent or terrorism offences.
Those applying for sensitive roles such as working with children or vulnerable adults, as well as national security roles or positions of public trust, will also still be required to disclose any criminal convictions.
It is hoped the reforms will “break barriers” to employment faced by ex-offenders who want to turn their lives around.
Mr Gauke said: “The responsibility, structure and support provided by regular work is an essential component of effective rehabilitation, something which benefits us all by reducing reoffending and cutting the cost of crime.
“That’s why we are introducing reforms to break barriers faced by ex-offenders who genuinely want to turn their lives around through employment.”
Under the proposed rules, the period of time for which shorter sentences and community sentences have to be revealed to employers will also be scaled back.
The exact length of these “rehabilitation periods” is to be decided after a public consultation.
According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), regular work is a major factor in breaking the cycle of crime.
However, just 17 per cent of offenders find employment a year after being released from prison and half of employers would not consider hiring an ex-offender, the MoJ said.
Penelope Gibbs, chairwoman of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said: “Currently anyone convicted of shoplifting twice aged 12 must disclose that when applying to be a traffic warden aged 55.
“Such laws prevent people moving on in their lives. We welcome the government’s proposal to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
“This will help people get employment, but will not wipe the slate clean. Shortening rehabilitation periods should be a first step in reform of whole criminal records disclosure system.”