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Going on a game show with a criminal record


Back in 2011, a case in the UK raised the question of whether game show producers should run background checks on their contestants to screen those who have criminal convictions.

At the time, the media had a field day (see, for example, the Mail Online and the Sun), after a contestant on ITV’s Red or Black won a top prize of £1 million and it was subsequently revealed that he had been convicted of assaulting a woman and sent to prison for 5 years in 2006. Producers on the programme had been aware of his criminal conviction but believed it was the result of a confrontation with another man. Following his win, there were calls in the press for him to be stripped of his prize money after full details of his offence emerged, but it was later reported that he was able to keep his prize money.

This case is just one example of how issues like this have caused difficulties for people with convictions. The information below will hopefully clarify the situation for people thinking about applying to go on a game show.

What production companies might ask

We see many production companies that ask potential contestants to declare criminal convictions – they often ask a question as part of their application process. Sometimes, they will ask about ‘unspent’ convictions only, although often they will simply ask “do you have a criminal record”.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, if you are asked by a production company to disclose criminal convictions, you should only disclose those which are unspent.

How they might check

If they wish to undertake any formal criminal records check, they would only be eligible to carry out a basic check through DBS which would only reveal unspent convictions. However, in practice, companies rarely go down this route.

In our experience, if you disclose something, some production companies will ask that you provide a copy of your criminal record (usually by providing a copy of your police subject access request). Technically, if this is required, then this would be regarded as an enforced subject access which breaches section 56 of the Data Protection Act. You should be entitled to provide a basic check, which will only disclose any unspent convictions that you have.

Will I be successful?

There is no legal or moral reason why somebody with a previous conviction shouldn’t be able to appear on a game show, but as can be seen from the case above, in a society which struggles to accept reform and rehabilitation, it’s not uncommon to find production companies taking quite a strict approach. However, this will very much depend on the individual production company and the programme itself.

What else you should consider

As the case in 2011 shows, there’s more to think about than just whether the production company will give you a place on the show.

In that case, it was ‘revealed’ by the victim of the contestant, who reportedly went ‘to the press’ about his past. This means that, regardless of how the production company deals with convictions, regardless of whether you decide to disclose or not, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that you might be going on national TV, where people who know about your past might flag this up. You’ve got to think about whether this is something you want to put yourself and your family through. This is a very personal decision, which depends on your particular situation and what your convictions relate to.



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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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