Concerns over ‘label for life’ spark rethink over schedule one offences

    Schedule one offences against children might be revised after
    the government said that convictions for minor incidents such as
    childhood fights could stigmatise people for life.

    As part of a review started last year, the Department for
    Education and Skills last month asked agencies to stop using the
    term “schedule one offender” when referring to people convicted of
    offences against children, irrespective of the crime’s severity.
    The DfES said people should be labelled according to their “risk to
    children”.

    The term referred originally to offences in schedule one of the
    Children and Young Persons Act 1933, but has come to be used as a
    catch-all term for offences against children and a trigger for a
    social services risk assessment.

    Pauline Batstone, chair of the Association of Youth Offending
    Team Managers, called on the government to amend or repeal the
    schedule, which the review is considering.

    She said the schedule one label could prevent people working
    with children if they had been convicted of a minor offence against
    a child when young and posed no risk now.

    In a letter to social services departments, the DfES
    acknowledges this concern, saying that schedule one is a “label
    that lasts for life with no review procedure”.

    It adds that the term “takes no consideration of the
    circumstances of the offence, or any assessment of ongoing risk”,
    is “ill-defined” and subject to conflicting interpretations.

    It recommends that agencies should change their procedures, and
    that all available information, not just history of offending,
    should be used in deciding whether a person poses a risk to
    children.

    The government also sent councils a list of offences against
    children introduced over the years, but emphasised these should not
    be used as a “trigger to denote risk”.

    The offences range from assault or battery, wounding with intent
    and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, to numerous sexual
    crimes introduced under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The list
    includes current and repealed offences to take account of people
    convicted of offences no longer on the statute books.

    The government added that the list of crimes was not exhaustive
    and that, in the case of some of the offences, the risk to children
    would apply only in certain circumstances.

     

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