On 13th May, Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce were released from their two-month prison spell, part of their eight-month sentences for perverting the course of justice. It will not have been what they envisaged when they swapped driving penalty points—an offence that 12 per cent of drivers would be willing to commit, according to a 2006 poll.
But leaving prison, and the end of their home detention in July, will not mean a return to normality. In theory, having a criminal record in Britain should not prevent a person from doing much, unless it is for violent or sexual offences. But in practice, the legal obligation to disclose a record, and the discrimination that follows, restricts access to everything from jobs to insurance, loans and travel. That has a huge impact on former prisoners—contributing, some argue, to Britain’s exceptionally high re-offending rate.
This has been recognised in recent legal changes. But in striking a balance between the public’s wish to know about criminal records, and the need for offenders to rebuild their lives, the law still does too little for former prisoners…
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