Ex-offenders group chair backs clean slate plan

Mark Leech, chairman of ex-offenders lobby and support group UNLOCK, this week backed proposals to wipe clean the records of ex-offenders.

Last week, The Lawyer exclusively revealed details of the scheme, which is being considered by Home Secretary Jack Straw.

In a preface to the 1999 edition of The Prisons Handbook he supports plans for reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 to establish a Criminal Records Tribunal which would have the power to suspend criminal records.

Ex-offenders would have to convince a tribunal that they had changed their ways and would be given a chance to start again with a clean slate.

Leech says: “Though it is undoubtedly right that they [criminal records] are not discarded lightly, it is equally wrong that someone… should never have an opportunity to put their past behind them.”

Leech also attacks the decision of the Board of Visitors (BoV) to keep the names of its chairmen secret on the grounds of “personal safety”.

However, Leech said: “It is a ludicrous system that names the head of M15, but then conceals at all costs the names of BoV chairmen.”