Darren contacted our helpline after a job he’d been offered with a local council had been withdrawn following receipt of an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.
Although Darren’s convictions were all spent (from 30 years ago) and minor, as there was more than one, they were not eligible to be removed (or ‘filtered’) from his enhanced check.
From the copy of the job description Darren provided us with, and advice he’d received from the DBS, we were of the opinion that the role he’d applied for was only eligible for a basic check and the council had therefore acted unlawfully in carrying out an enhanced check. Had the correct level of check been completed, then Darren’s spent convictions would not have been disclosed and he would have kept his job.
We contacted the council to highlight our concerns around eligibility and that under Section 123 of the Police Act 1997 it states:
“A person commits an offence if he knowingly makes a false statement for the purpose of obtaining or enabling another person to obtain a certificate under this Part”.
We also alerted the council to four other jobs being advertised on their site which asked for enhanced checks despite, in our view, only being eligible for a basic.
The council undertook its own investigation into eligibility and shared its findings with us. A comment made by a human resources advisor stated:
“Although the DBS is saying we only need a basic check, if there may be opportunities that the team may have contact with children or vulnerable adults in their work and the fact that the majority of the team currently have enhanced DBS checks, then it may be a good idea to stay at this level.
For example, a car parking officer may have to approach a car where a young child has been left alone”.
We went back to the council to confirm that approaching a car which has young children in wouldn’t make this type of role eligible for an enhanced check.
The council’s HR manager telephoned us a few weeks later to thank us for raising our concerns about the employment of people with convictions, especially around the recruitment process. The manager confirmed that as a result of our information and advice. the council would be carrying out a thorough review of their recruitment and selection process, and we’ll be following this up with them.
The HR manager also asked for further information around the Ban the Box campaign which removes the tick box on application forms which ask about criminal records as this was something the council would like to consider implementing at some point in the future.
As this case demonstrates, a lack of understanding around eligibility means that many organisations (including large ones like local councils) sometimes assume that they can do whatever criminal record checks they wish to rather than ones they are lawfully entitled to do.
However, having the opportunity to discuss good recruitment practice with an employer can have a really positive impact.
- Practical information: Eligibility for standard and enhanced checks
- Practical information: Challenging an ineligible DBS check
Notes about this case study
This case study relates to Unlock’s casework.
Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
Published September 2019