Disclosure checks under scrutiny

The majority of persistent and serious youth offenders fall under the radar of the police a new study has found.

Researchers at the University have found that enhanced disclosure checks, which contain details of both spent and unspent convictions, give a false sense of reassurance as the majority of persistent and serious offenders are unknown to either the children’s hearing system or the adult criminal justice system.

Findings show that 77% of chronic violent offenders are never referred to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) on offence grounds, 68% are not known to social work or the hearings and 88% have no convictions for violence by the age of 22.

Offences under the radar

The results, which are part of the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime study - a longitudinal survey of 4300 schoolchildren in Edinburgh which began in 1998 - found that the vast majority of young people committing serious and violent offences do so beneath the radar.

Professor Lesley McAra one of the main academics behind the study, also found very few children referred to SCRA on offence grounds continue offending into adulthood - undermining reasons for keeping these as criminal convictions for 20 years or until children reach 40 (as per current enhanced disclosure procedures).

Other measures required

Those working unsupervised with children have to apply for an enhanced disclosure check which will contain both spent and unspent conviction data and other intelligence or information considered relevant by the local police force.

Disclosure Scotland also undertakes basic disclosure checks, which will not contain spent convictions, and standard checks which will contain all conviction data.

Where people are working with vulnerable people and children, we should ensure they are still scrutinised and monitored. Other measures are required to ensure people are protected because just applying for a certificate will not protect them.

Professor Lesley McAraSchool of Law

The findings were presented at workshop which was hosted by the University of Edinburgh The Empirical Legal Research Network in association with the Scottish Child Law Centre and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.