Thousands of former prison inmates and other offenders could have their past convictions cleared from their records under Government plans.
The length of time during which job applicants are legally required to disclose past criminal convictions would be reduced under the proposals from Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke. Prison terms of up to six months would be spent two years after the end of the sentence, compared with seven years after conviction now. Only jail terms of four years or longer would never be considered spent, compared with all those of 30 months or longer now.
"First and foremost, criminals must be suitably punished for their crimes," said Justice Minister Lord McNally. "But it is no good for anyone if they go to jail and come out and then can't get an honest job and so turn back to crime again." He said the reforms would give offenders "a fair chance of getting back on the straight and narrow, while ensuring safeguards are in place to protect the public".
Nacro, a charity working for crime reduction, welcomed the plans but said they "will still present barriers to people who have put their offending behind them".