How long should police keep criminal records?

November 1, 2007

Just how long should police be able to keep records of people’s criminal convictions?******Data watchdog, the ICO , has unearthed one case where Humberside police still had a record of the theft of 99 pence worth of meat by a youth in 1984.******In another, a girl cautioned for minor assault when she was under 14 was told by Staffordshire Police that the record would stay on file until she was 100.******They will fuel a growing debate about privacy in Britain, which already has more CCTV surveillance cameras on its streets than any other European country.******Is it justified for police to hang on so long to records of what may often be just isolated instances of youthful indiscretion and which could damage people’s jobs prospects years afterwards?******The police obviously think so. Four forces that have been told by the ICO to delete such records are challenging the demand and the issue will now go to the Information Tribunal.******What do you think?

17 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I see absolutely no reason why the police should not keep accurate and factual criminal records indefinitely.I am less comfortable with the fact that, by law, I can’t demand to see what ‘facts’ are on record about myself. This surely leads to the risk that the police may have false “facts” on record.I think that suspicion and hearsay is a more interesting issue. I can see why this needs to be collated in order to detect and pursue criminals intent on covering their trail… but, where information in police records amounts to nothing more than subjective guesswork and shaky allegations – we certainly need this information clearly labelled as such and tightly controlled. False allegations without substance could easily seriously adversely affect honest people’s lives if this information is misused.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

For minor petty crimes?No way,to be fair if they were arrested maybe but minor misdemeanors being kept on file? why? do the police really need records of a witness in a murder enquiry who went out scrumping apples when they were a kid? No!Previous comment:I am less comfortable with the fact that, by law, I can’t demand to see what ‘facts’ are on record about myself. This surely leads to the risk that the police may have false “facts” on record.You can it’s called the data protection act it was passed in 1998 and you can see any info the police has on you in their database

Posted by 121e | Report as abusive

why can’t Britain act like other civilized nations and allow previously law-abiding citizens who have committed minor transgressions the chance to redeem themselves by having their records expunged.If you’ve done the time for God’s sake you debt to society is complete.Not applicable for violent crimes and sex-offenders.Expunge please.

Posted by oh my God | Report as abusive

The whole idea of rehabilitation is to make people realise their mistake and place them back in the community.Then there are those who may have committed a petty crime but regret it or in later years they realised they were wrong?Should we still hold these records that can hinder their lives going forward? I have a friend who found a credit card about 10 years ago in a Student Union Bar, we dared him to use it in HMV and he got arrested for the silly prank, ten years on, his life is ruined because even though he has two degrees, this little prank cost his life and to this day he has trouble getting a job because it keeps showing on police records after 12 years. Surely that is worng?

Posted by Joseph | Report as abusive

I have a son who got into a live-in situation with a girl friend.There was the inevitable difference of opinion and her brother involved himself and beat my son up.He then went on to trash the flat that they were living in,and blamed my son for it.The landlord took the matter to court and my son was convicted of causing criminal damage to the property.That was sixteen years ago.He has never been in trouble since, but this incident is on file, preventing him getting a carers job.There must be thousands of similar cases out there. Is there no way for a person in this position to have the record wiped clean.It is tantamount to a complete travesty of justice that one incident like this should reap punishment for the rest of one’s life.

Posted by P.MOGRIDGE | Report as abusive

[...] The truth is but a GOOGLE away. I wish some people would check before they " advise ". How long should police keep criminal records? – UK News is an easy way to understand. Anyone from the UK here who has ever called for or been involved in [...]

The police could keep the records with out showing them on record checks after the spent period has passed!! but they all should be deleted after 7-10 years except for some offences.Everybody should get a second chance and be given the chance work

Posted by James | Report as abusive

i think when crimes are so obviously minor they should be removed from the record. if a student didnt have a bus ticket and got caught, its not fair that they are fined and cant get a good job for years after.

Posted by mira mahmood | Report as abusive

I admitted stealing when I was 17 because was bullied by a policeman into it, i didnt do it but was a very naive 17 year old. I had a CRB check done 5 years ago and nothing showed up I was told because it was over 20 years ago and that it was a fine. The person who did steal set me up and was caught a few years later and admitted it but i had to wait 20 years for it to be wpied

Posted by louise | Report as abusive

It is wrong to brand a person “criminal” for the rest of their lives, even more so for petty offences that did not involve any prison sentence. If a record must be kept then 10 years is more than adequate.

Posted by Chloe | Report as abusive

I had to call police yesterday for a last resort to have a word with my son for his aggressive behaviour and ask them to tell him that it is unacceptable behaviour, such as breaking,throwing things around the house to get his own ways. Generally, shoving and pushing me and punching his little brother. I am a single parent and I do not have any male friends to talk to my son to tell him it is wrong.Now, I am worried sick because police came and talk to him and have taken his date of birth along with mine and his little brother and wondering what they will do with that personal data and will those personal data remains in theirs record and will it prevent my son to get a good career job?

Posted by Sharon | Report as abusive

My daughter did steel a bag from a friend recently,lost her job and now is depresed and miserable at home, only 18 of age, can’t find a job because they all requiare a CBR, how are we going to ger out of this situation, as far as I am concerned my life and hers as well are finished! Does anybody know of jobs that dont requiare a CBR? the solicitor tols us that the record is kept for 7 years, but reading above the coments ot other people I am geting more and more devastated and loosing hope.

Posted by Mariane | Report as abusive

This government say they want people in work. While they attack the sick and disabled, who in many cases have worked since ages 15 years old, there are in fact very able people (with a record) wanting to work and want to make a decent life, but can’t because of Police records. If the person has done a prison sentence, I think only then, should a record be kept. Even then, if the person is record free for 10 years after having done a prison sentence, then that too should be deleted. Think of all the extra workers we’d have paying into the system. Think of all the paper, effort and time it would save, and think about the savings in police and support services.Lets get that insensitive and inhumane Mr Pernell off the cases of innocent and sick or ill people. It border lines evil what this Government is doing and I have always used that word wisely.You know it makes sense!! Come on Gordon and Co think logically if you can for a change and leave the innocent alone !!

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

I think police records should only be kept until they are spent. Serious crime needs to be kept.Does anyone know if CRB checks at enhanced level will show convictions that are spent, such as breach of the peace and theft (bullied into admitting it by police but did no commit it).The convictions resulted in small fines 25 years ago.

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

Okay, I have read all of your posts. Some very interesting. So here is my thing. 1990-Obstruct police-fine-£95.00, 1991-Obstruct police and affray-£105.00 fine. 1994-Court Martial for AWOL, given 1 year sentence and discharged from the military. I am now 38 years old married with a loving family, some of which are now adults and embarking on their own lives. I am NOT the person that I was in 1990/91 when I created a criminal history. I understand why we must vet and ask about previous, to help protect the vulnerable, but this only works to a certain extent as can be seen when crimes against the vulnerable are committed by persons with no history. I am not a threat against the vulnerable, not now or back in my youth. I was a silly little boy whom thought he was invulnerable, especially where alcohol was. I have, and continue to pay for my history by way of low paid jobs that I know I’m better than. My current job has no CBR check, yet I am the companies first aider??? what more of a vulnerable situation can people find themselves in? Its all a half cocked solution that best fits the situation and is a visual attempt to show the people of our nation that something is being done by our whiter than white leaders… All have made mistakes, but my concern is this; you can not judge me on my past and form an opinion on what I can and can not do no more than someone whom has no criminal history? At no point during my display of juvenile behavior did I ever think that all this time later I would still be paying for it. My Court Martial in 94 will also have a bearing on any vetted employment, even though I really do consider it as a civil account, basically I left my employment and broke my contract, I went AWOL. How is this pertinent to the type of employment? At best it would show that I was unreliable? But my years of employment since surly shows that I am punctual and dependable yet this question is specifically asked on the enhanced disclosure form. It seems that it is more the fact the I went through the Courts Martial system rather than the breach of contact that is more important here. Once again I do understand why these checks are in place, but they need serious refinement. It is apparent that the majority catchment area here are minor infringements of the law, in essence if this system worked then there would be no crimes against the vulnerable…..but we all know this continues to happen.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

i had problems back in 1988 -1989 ,i was 14 in 88 ,i got done as a jevnile for offensive weapon ,assult on police which they made up and violent disorder i was in care and going through a bed troubled time which i wish to forget,i have never been done for anything since ,i am now a mother of two young boys and have been dating a policeman who i have fallen for,would this affect our relainship?i am worried sick about him finding out and ending what we have ,can anyone advise ,i was 14 and a jevinile ,i am a good mother and want to be with him .i am not the troubled teen back then .

Posted by nicole | Report as abusive

As someone who did “something silly” over 30 years ago and has since been unblemished, I find it hard to believe that I am limited in my chosen profession, ie primary school teacher, because i have to list this conviction on job applications even though it has no relevance to my teaching ability or the safety of the kids in my card. I feel there should e a sliding scale for records to be expunged depending on the severity of the offence.

Posted by Gibbins | Report as abusive

UK is a Police-Nanny State. Police has powers even over politicians and it’s meant to protect the rich and powerful, no matter if they are criminals. Police works less than in any country here, as nothing moves after 11pm, no shops, no night life, only CCTV cameras everywhere, more than in any state. Police force people to obbey and to not make strikes or demonstrations which are upsetting for the rich and powerful. A real criminal is never with a criminal record such a poor person, who just complaint about a Police officer. Victims are ‘set-up’, real criminals escape (real ones, dealing with kidnapping, illegal trafficking, fraud, etc) and petty crime is good for statistics, that the Police did something, when actually works hand in hands with criminals many times… Petty crime justifies Police existence and the huge number of Police Officers. Police has immunity in the UK. And they are keeping this country ‘quiet’ and no revolts are going to upset the monarchy any more, like in old times. Petty crime and Police Gossips placed in people’s record are the once which suffocate the most people independence and their will to stand up their rights. This is the way of controlling this country and manipulating people to listen and stay put. Who dares to speak up, who is the bravest, etc becomes ‘persona non Grata’. This persons has to have a ‘fist in their mouths’, otherwise they can ‘open the population eyes’ about this faked democracy. This is why they keep records for so long, to be able to blackmail people as they wish and to keep them put, obeying the system, smothering any sort of rebellion feeling which crosses any simple person’s mind. Some are controlled because they have medical records that they use drugs (and GP’s work hand in hand with Police in falsifying entries about people, as many people never read what is recorded in their file and never ask for a copy of it), some because they have Police records for petty crime or officer’s gossips, such as an allegation was made against you of theft or of assault, but not concluded, or wasting Police time or obstructing Police actions, or not collaborating with Police or delusional, etc. And what is left not controlled, is easily blocked from standing up against the rich and powerful, together with Police Forces.

Posted by individual2011 | Report as abusive

[...] person has served their sentence, why should a criminal record follow them throughout their lives. How long should police keep criminal records? | UK News Save a life, check your smoke alarm, [...]