Bob Ashford calls for law change after being forced to quit police commissioner race
Two candidates for the role of police and crime commissioner forced to quit the race over historic offences have joined forces to call for a change in the law.
Bob Ashford, who has spent most of his adult life as a social worker and 15 years in youth justice, was blocked from the job in Avon and Somerset over an offence committed as 13-year-old 46 years ago, and for which he was fined £5.
His calls to overhaul the law, allowing those who have served their sentences to be “allowed to fulfil their potential and play a full and productive part in society”, a call backed by Falklands veteran and independent candidate Simon Weston, who fell foul of the law as a passenger in a stolen car aged 14.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 disqualifies a person from standing for the job if they have been convicted of an imprisonable offence, whether or not they were actually jailed.
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Mr Ashford was fined £5 for trespass and possession of an offensive weapon, after he was pressured by peers into joining them, though he denies touching the airgun.
Mr Ashford said, “We want to amend this section of the act, so that the standard demanded of PCC candidates with regard to previous convictions is the same standard demanded of Members of Parliament. This is only fair.”
“Should every a criminal record be a sentence for life? All we are asking for is an informed debate about the long-term impact of criminal records on people’s lives.”
“Young people and adults who have committed offences should not be damaged throughout their lives by a criminal record. It’s a social and economic tragedy that we spend billions each year on criminal justice but then prevent people who turn their lives around from working and paying taxes. It’s time to wipe the slate clean.”
His calls were echoed by Mr Weston, who stood in South Wales. He said: “It has never proved a drawback for anything else that I’ve done in my life, and it certainly didn’t prevent me from putting on the Queen’s uniform and going off to fight for my country.
“It now seems that people seem to more focused on revenge rather rehabilitation.”
Mr Weston and Mr Ashford were not the only two candidates to be eliminated.
Mike Quigley, the Conservative candidate in Nottinghamshire, was barred for smashing a window 44 years ago and Derbyshire’s Labour candidate Alan Charles because he stole a purse when he was 14.
In support of the Wipetheslateclean campaign, Mr Ashford said: “For some offences the disclosure of criminal convictions is a necessity. But we would like to see old and minor convictions filtered out of CRB checks.”