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The state has a long memory, and arguably its keenest powers of recollection are reserved for those who come into contact with the criminal justice system. From the moment of an arrest until many years after a conviction or caution, a person may be exposed to real reputational damage that continues to impact on their professional and personal lives.
In many cases, sensitive personal data will be retained or records of convictions kept in circumstances where an individual is in fact entitled to have them erased. Alongside those issues, the balance to be struck in on-going proceedings between the right to privacy and the open justice principle is at the cutting edge of criminal justice developments.
In practical terms, an individual's arrest pursuant to a criminal allegation will leave a potentially indelible digital stamp on at least three different databases, and the information contained on these databases can be retrieved whenever the state has cause to scrutinise that individual's background, either upon its own motion or upon the request of a third party. That may happen when an individual applies for employment or a visa for foreign travel and, depending on the nature of the information stored about them, its disclosure may mean that those job or travel prospects are lost. In other cases, people might be haunted by historic convictions which ought properly to be disregarded.
Contact with the criminal justice system can, therefore, have potentially life-altering unfair consequences for some individuals. An understanding of the law surrounding the publicity of criminal proceedings, the creation and retention of criminal records, and the remedies available to an individual who wishes to amend or delete these records is therefore vital for legal professionals who represent and advise those who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Armed with the information in Criminal Records, Privacy and the Criminal Justice System: A Handbook, practitioners will be able to advise their clients on their prospects of limiting the publicity of their involvement in criminal proceedings, of altering the state's recollection of them to their advantage or, where warranted, making it forget them altogether. Personal data and the uses to which it can be put is a hot topic at the moment and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
This is an area that has seen some material changes in recent years and which is capable of providing considerable benefits for clients and lawyers alike, but which tends to be overlooked. Criminal Records, Privacy and the Criminal Justice System: A Handbook seeks to change that by making the field more accessible for those with existing specialism in criminal and public law.
Criminal Records, Privacy and the Criminal Justice System: A Handbook is part of the Criminal Practice Series.