Home / Insights / Blog / Cheryl Tweedy Takes Legal Action Over Criminal Conviction Reporting

Cheryl Tweedy Takes Legal Action Over Criminal Conviction Reporting

Cheryl Tweedy Takes Legal Action Over Criminal Conviction Reporting

Cheryl Tweedy

Singer Cheryl Tweedy is taking legal action through use of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in a bid to block the media from reporting on her 2003 criminal conviction.

Tweedy was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for assaulting a toilet attendant at a nightclub in 2003 and ordered to complete 120 hours of community service and pay a fine. The incident has been mentioned in reports from medial outlets since then due to Tweedy’s celebrity status, with Tweedy herself publishing information on the incident in a 2012 autobiography.

Now, Tweedy’s legal team are trying to prohibit further reporting on the crime, subsequent trial, her conviction or sentence by arguing that such reporting constitutes a breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The statute aims to help minor offenders with spent convictions avoid disproportionate job discrimination later in life.

Some experts however have voiced concern that Tweedy’s case, if successful, could set a dangerous precedent for application of the legislation outside of its intended purposes and instead render it a vehicle for celebrities and powerful, prominent figures to gag the media from reporting on their criminal convictions.

Limitations under Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

According to statistics from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice, one in six people in the UK has a criminal record.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 categorises most, less serious criminal convictions and cautions as “spent” after a set time period. Once the conviction is “spent”, the former offender is considered rehabilitated and is to be treated as if they had never committed an offence, with the legal right to not disclose their criminal record from prospective employers in most fields.

Some roles are exempt from the Act however and can still require criminal record transparency, such as roles in accountancy and legal services or working with children and vulnerable adults. Exemptions from the Act seem set to be further limited soon, following a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court in January 2019.

The Supreme Court held that the Act was unfair in requiring all previous criminal convictions to be disclosed in two areas: firstly, when the person has multiple convictions – however minor – and secondly where the person was issued a warning or reprimand as a young offender.

Supreme Court limits compulsory disclosure of minor offences

Four cases came to the Supreme Court on appeal by the Home Office, after judges in lower courts ruled that former offenders in certain cases should not be forced to disclose their record to employers.

The Disclosure and Barring Service criminal record checks system requires job candidates to disclose past offences if the conviction is serious, unspent, resulted in a prison sentence or there are multiple convictions.

The rulings appealed by the Home Office, but now upheld by England’s highest court, involved four former offenders – one of whom was a woman convicted of stealing a sandwich and another an individual convicted in Northern Ireland of not wearing a seatbelt.

Penelope Gibbs of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice welcomed the ruling, stating:

“It is great that the Supreme Court has recognised that there are aspects of the current criminal records regime that are not fit for purpose.”

However, she added that lawmakers must “go further” with reforms, advocating for the government to “use this judgment as a springboard to radically reform our childhood criminal records system” to allow “all those who were convicted as children, took the punishment and now live a crime-free life, to be able to move on, free of criminal records.”

Gibbs noted: “[Law in ] England and Wales is an international outlier in preventing children who commit crimes from getting a second chance.”

Contact IBB Solicitors’ criminal defence lawyers today

We have one of the leading teams of defence solicitors in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team. Call us now in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.

(Image attribution JJ Georges.)