Is the 100-year-old rule fair?
Before 2006, the police could delete eligible records under the old ‘weeding’ guidelines. Individuals could apply for eligible records to be removed and it would seem, in some cases, that eligible records were automatically deleted. However, the process was not systematic and many records that were eligible for deletion were not deleted.
Since 2006, police retain details of all recordable offences until the individual reaches 100 years of age.
On 12 February 2021 the High Court ruled in R(QSA and others) v NPCC (1) and SSHD (2)  EWHC 272 (Admin) against three women who wanted their criminal convictions to be removed from their records and for the 100 years of age rule not to apply. These three women were groomed into sex work as teenagers and all received criminal convictions for Soliciting. They argued that keeping their criminal convictions on the Police National Computer (PNC) permits ongoing discrimination against women and that it is unlawful.
In their ruling, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham said: “In our view, the objective of the 100-year rule, namely to maintain a comprehensive record of convictions, is sufficiently important to the criminal justice system alone to justify interference with the claimants' Article 8 rights (to private and family life).” They went on to make the following comments:
“We accept without hesitation that all three claimants are greatly disturbed by the knowledge that their convictions... continue to be recorded when they have all been of good character for decades.”
“And we accept that it is a feature of the PNC arrangements that there is no provision for a record of conviction to be deleted absent exceptional circumstances.”
But they added that “government agencies have a genuine and pressing need to access a comprehensive record of criminal convictions.”
Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham said: “The possibility that those records were incomplete would to a significant extent undermine that value.” and “The removal of even a single recordable offence would mean that the PNC could not be relied upon as containing a complete record of any individual's convictions.”
The court concluded that it was 'clear that the public interest in the maintenance of a comprehensive record of convictions far outweighs the personal interest of the claimants in deleting from the PNC records the fact of their past convictions'.