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Hot topic: Disclosure of spent convictions

26th June, 2014

There has been substantial media attention recently following the Supreme Court decision in R (on the application of T) v Secretary of State in which it was held that disclosure of spent convictions in the process of applying for work is not a necessary interference with an individual’s right to private life.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 was introduced to promote ex-offenders getting back into ‘honest work’, as long as they do not re-offend. There are specified time limits after which a conviction will be considered ‘spent’, and therefore need not be disclosed to potential employers.

However, certain occupations are subject to an Exceptions Order under the legislation whereby an ex-offender is required to disclose their conviction regardless of whether it is spent or unspent. Such occupations include those which involve work with children.

In the current case, T was given a warning aged 11 for stealing two bicycles and JB was given a caution for shoplifting some false nails as a child. When they applied for jobs at a football club and as a care worker respectively, enhanced criminal records checks were used and their convictions were disclosed, despite the fact that neither had any other criminal record.

The Supreme Court held that this violated the individuals’ right to private life and therefore the criminal records system should be scaled back to “common sense levels”.

The judgment has been welcomed by human rights activists and The Equality and Human Rights Commission have commented that the Supreme Court had “sensibly recognised” that people should not be haunted forever by minor childhood offences.

It is important to be aware of your responsibilities in relation to disclosure of previous convictions whether you are applying or recruiting for the job in question. For further information and advice in relation to disclosure of convictions.

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