Justice Minister announces changes to the AccessNI filtering scheme

Date published: 16 March 2020

Justice Minister, Naomi Long MLA today announced changes to the AccessNI scheme that will ensure only relevant and appropriate criminal record information will be disclosed on certificates.

Naomi Long said: “As the result of a ruling made by the Supreme Court in January 2019, I have removed a restriction in the AccessNI scheme whereby if a person had more than a single conviction on their criminal record, all convictions held on their criminal record were disclosed on a standard or enhanced AccessNI check. 

“This change ensures that the scheme is more proportionate in terms of the information released and that individuals will not find obtaining employment more difficult because of old and minor convictions in their past.”

The new rules will be applied to any AccessNI check processed after 16th March 2020. Changes in respect of the disclosure of information with regard to offences committed when applicants were under 18 years of age will also be applied.

Minister Long continued “In addition, any information about offences committed by persons under 18 which were adjudicated outside a court process (non-court disposals), such as informed warnings, cautions or youth conference plans will be scrutinised by the Department’s Independent Reviewer of criminal record certificates and will only be disclosed where she determines that the offence could undermine the safeguarding or protection of children and vulnerable adults or the protection of the public.

“All serious and recent offending will continue to be disclosed on AccessNI checks to ensure that employers have the information they require to make safe recruitment decisions.

“These changes will ensure the continued protection of vulnerable groups without disproportionately penalising individuals.”

Notes to editors: 

1.  The current AccessNI filtering scheme was introduced in 2014.  The intention of the scheme was to ensure that old and minor convictions or non-court disposal information was not disclosed on AccessNI checks.

2.  At present, AccessNI does not disclose conviction information held about an individual on their criminal record where this is more than 11 years old.  The exceptions to this are where;

  • The individual has more than a single conviction, even if the convictions were awarded at the same court (known as the multiple conviction rule);
  • The offence is regarded as serious and is an offence held on a list that are known as specified offences;
  • The disposal awarded against the offence was a period of imprisonment including a suspended sentence.

3.  Under the revised scheme AccessNI will now only disclose conviction information on an individual applying for an AccessNI standard or enhanced check where the offending is less than 11 years old, regardless of how many offences are held on the criminal record, except;

  • Where the offence is a specified offence; or
  • Where the disposal is for a period of imprisonment including a suspended sentence.

4.  In addition; any non-court disposal awarded when a person was under the age of 18 will not be disclosed before it is independently scrutinised by this Department’s Independent Review of criminal record certificates.

5.  The changes will be introduced on an administrative basis initially to ensure current practice complies with the Supreme Court ruling.  Legislation will then be brought forward to give the changes a statutory footing in due course. 

6.  Examples of how the new scheme will impact on the disclosure of offences can be found at nidirect website.

 

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