Justice Minister David Ford has introduced an independent review scheme in respect of criminal record disclosures by AccessNI.
At present AccessNI can filter some information, particularly some minor and old convictions, from a standard or enhanced criminal record disclosure certificate. The legislation has now been amended to allow an individual to seek an independent review of the information remaining on their certificate. This can happen in defined circumstances, if the person believes the disclosure to be disproportionate. For certain cases involving young people this review will be automatic. The scheme will be available from 1 March.
David Ford said: “The review mechanism is an important addition to our system to help ensure a proportionate disclosure regime. It is important to strike an appropriate balance between the protection of those who are vulnerable with the need to support the rehabilitation of adults and young people who have offended and who want to move on and make a positive contribution to society.”
The Minister welcomed the appointment of Simon Pountain as the Independent Reviewer. Mr Pountain already holds the position of Independent Monitor in respect of the police information that is included on disclosure certificates. This new role will add the independent review function.
The Minister said: “Simon Pountain has already developed a sound understanding of Northern Ireland’s criminal records disclosure regime in his role as Independent Monitor and I believe that his extensive experience and skills will be an asset to the role of Independent Reviewer. His involvement in both roles will help to streamline the decision-making process significantly, and enable more prompt decisions.”
Following public consultation, the Department of Justice has published guidance documents setting out the detail of how the review mechanism will operate.