Paige contacted our helpline for some advice relating to a situation which had arisen following her nomination as a trustee of her university’s student union board.
Shortly after being elected as a trustee, the student union board had been contacted by another student drawing their attention to newspaper reports of a conviction Paige had received about 6 years earlier which had resulted in a prison sentence. Although she had informed the university of her conviction at the time of her enrolment, she hadn’t been asked to disclose it during any part of the trustee election process.
The chair of the board had contacted Paige and invited her to attend a meeting where she would be asked to explain the facts and circumstances of the conviction and provide details of why she had chosen not to disclose her conviction at the time of accepting the role of trustee. The board were of the opinion that it would have been good practice to disclose, even if she wasn’t asked to.
We suggested to Paige that she put something in writing to the board prior to the meeting so they would have the opportunity to consider her case before the meeting. She should set out the details of her conviction and the circumstances surrounding it as well as highlighting that:
- Her offence would not be one which would disqualify her from being a trustee of a charity.
- At no point during the election process was she asked about her unspent convictions and, there was no obligation on any new or prospective trustees to proactively provide details of any unspent conviction.
- Had she wanted to disclose her conviction she would have found it difficult to do so confidentially. 50% of the board consisted of students that she would have to interact with outside the board room.
Paige provided Unlock’s details to the board who contacted us prior to the meeting for clarification around disqualification and the legislation around disclosure. We suggested to the board that if they felt it was ‘best practice’ for trustees to disclose, then they should consider asking the question during the recruitment process rather than put the onus on a new trustee to share this voluntarily.
The day after the meeting, Paige received confirmation from the board that having considered the facts of her case, they would be happy for her to continue as a trustee. They stated that as Paige was not a student at the time of her offence and trial it could not be associated with the student union. The board stated that they had a keen interest in the rehabilitation of offenders and wished to support her in moving on with her life after her prison sentence.
“I was pretty confident that I wasn’t disqualified from being a trustee and only needed to disclose if I was asked to. However, when the board told me that it was considered ‘good practice’ to disclose I started to doubt myself and worry that I had done something wrong. Unlock gave me the confidence to fight my corner”
The ease in which people can search for information on the internet means that anybody who has information published about them online will always run the risk of it being disclosed informally.
This case demonstrates how universities and student unions have a duty to address concerns raised by other students. In this case, the board gathered enough evidence and information prior to their meeting to enable them to make an informed decision.
- Practical information: Becoming a trustee of a charity
- Our policy and campaign work: Enabling people with convictions to become trustees and run charities
Notes about this case study
This case study relates to Unlock’s case work.
Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.