Like an addict seeking their fix, the highs (and lows) of debating LASPO continue. Will it, won’t it? When? “I heard that . . .” and “I read on a website . . .” There follows a brief recap for those enraptured with government promises and especially for those who truly believe in the promised land.
Recently, the Dholakia inquiry gave the ROA a good airing. Many proposals were put forward – this was to be THE rehabilitation revolution. Good things were proposed, Kenneth Clarke was all for it and even Lord McNally for the government agreed and said in the Lords; “ . . . so that when we bring forward proposals they will very much reflect the content and the spirit of the legislation that he, [Dholakia], has put before the House today”.
Meanwhile, waiting with bated breath stood the believers. Unknown to all, in the background Clarke was removed and we got LASPO instead. A rather, or extremely diluted, version of what had been suggested and agreed, focusing on cost cutting and a reduction in legal aid as the main points. Never mind, some previous offences could now be legally hidden, (the operative word being hidden); nothing had been stepped down or deleted but . . . better than nothing, for some.
The one point that nobody addressed is the ease with which companies, employers and privately set up companies for this very purpose could still access people’s previous convictions. Employers still requiring SARs or even illegally demanding CRB, (DBS) checks. Roll on spring 2013 thought the believers . . . and nothing happened.
Meanwhile, it was decided, (after the government had been dragged to the European court, kicking and screaming), that those with only one previous conviction might be allowed to have it deleted after many years, but again . . . well, some time in the future, maybe? A little like the prisoner voting issue where Cameron said it made him “physically ill” and echoed the majority views of Parliament that the government would do the minimum to comply with the ECHR?
Feverishly, our believers waded through countless websites, wrote to their MPs and debated on the forum . . . anything for a glimmer of hope. Posts were also made suggesting that because a company website said they don’t discriminate, then that meant one could find employment there; forgetting that companies are not allowed to discriminate by law and so they would say that, wouldn’t they? Hope and belief turned to, well, stupidity? The buzz words, ‘equality’, and ‘non- discrimination’ had, I envisage, a hollow ring to those who tried to gain employment from information supplied on these company websites and again, the lows and despair followed. The naivety and backlash I received when stating this on a previous occasion shocked me.
‘We must obey’ shout the herd, ‘You must declare’ argue the unemployed, ‘it says so on a website’ say the believers . . . After all your dealings with the State and the CJS, do you still really believe that the government are acting in your best interests? Are you still awaiting help and hoping for change because you read it somewhere, or some politician said something that you interpret as hope?
The change will come; it will come slowly and it will be opposed at every stage not only by the government, but also by the public. Fifty years ago the UK still had the death penalty and rehabilitation itself is still a new concept in historical terms. The way forward is to ditch the sheep mentality, learn to think for yourselves, not rely on others . . . or continue to believe and face the highs and lows of a self-inflicted idealism.