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Category: Normal life

Rehabilitation in the internet age – The Google-effect and the disclosure of criminal records

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides people with criminal records protection from discrimination once their criminal record becomes ‘spent’.

In an article for the Probation Journal, published this month, Christopher Stacey highlights how media reports are increasingly available online and often mean spent convictions continue to be accessible to employers and others.

However, he also looks at a landmark case in 2014 that established a ‘right to be forgotten’, which enables people to ask for search results to be delisted from internet search engines. He examines to what extent this helps people with convictions.

The article is available to read and/or download from the Probation Journal

Disqualified… from being a trustee or a senior manager

Later this year, the automatic disqualification rules will be extended to cover even more criminal convictions.

The new laws will automatically disqualify people with a wide range of criminal convictions from being charity trustees or senior managers. Those affected will have to resign or apply to the Charity Commission for waivers. In this Third Sector article, Christopher Stacey expresses his fear that this could have devastating consequences for many people and organisations when it comes into force in the autumn.

Delay to introduction of rules on charity staff and trustees with criminal convictions

Today Civil Society has published a piece on the extensions to rules disqualifying trustees and senior managers as a result of criminal convictions.

A Charity Commission spokesperson is quoted in the article, stating that:

“these changes will have significant impact on some individuals and we have always been clear that charities and affected individuals must have enough time to prepare for these changes properly. In order to do so fully, we are working with the Office for Civil Society to set a commencement date later in 2017.


“We consider that this should not before September and are hopeful that this will be agreed. We continue to work with a number of umbrella bodies and rehabilitation charities as we further develop these plans to ensure that charities, trustees and senior staff members have all the relevant information and enough time to take the appropriate steps.”

The original plan of government was to introduce these changes in April 2017.

We are pleased that the government and Charity Commission have listened to the concerns that we’ve raised by delaying implementation. We continue to have principled objections to a number of aspects of the new legislation, in particular the extension of the framework to senior managers and the inclusion of certain spent convictions and people on the sex offenders register. These changes are unnecessary and will be an ineffective way of protecting charities.

A delay to implementation will enable the government to carry out the proper impact assessment of these proposed changes that it has committed to do, so that this can be considered as part of the implementation process. It will also give the commission the time it needs to produce clear guidance on the new framework and establish a sensible waiver process. The retrospective impact of these changes means that the commission needs time to support both charities and individuals affected and ensure that individuals are able to obtain waivers ahead of these changes coming into force.

We understand that the commission remain committed to raising awareness and publishing guidance at least 6 months in advance of any changes coming into force. We’ll be keeping our policy section updated as this progresses.



Are you disqualified from acting as a charity trustee or senior manager?

The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 means people with unspent convictions for specific offences, as well as those on the sex offenders register are automatically disqualified from acting as trustees or senior managers.

As a charity that exists to support the efforts of people with convictions in moving on positively with their lives, and as an organisation which itself seeks to recruit trustees and leaders who themselves have convictions, we are concerned about the impact of this. Ultimately, we think that the changes brought in by the 2016 Act are disproportionate and an ineffective way of protecting charities.

You are likely to be affected if you:

  • have unspent convictions for dishonesty-related offences, deception-related offences, money laundering or terrorism-related offences


  • are on the sex offenders register.

We’re gathering evidence from people who are impacted by the disqualification rules.

What we need from you

If you have are automatically disqualified from acting as a trustee or senior manager because of your criminal record and have been (or will be) affected by the rules in some way, contact us at using the subject header ‘Call for evidence: CC disqualification’.

Please include:

  • Your name
  • Contact details (email and telephone) and how you’d like us to contact you
  • Details of your criminal record
  • Information on how the disqualification rules have affected you – did you have to give up a position you were already in? Have you applied for a position but been turned down by the charity?
  • Have you applied to the Charity Commission for a waiver – and were you successful?
  • What you think should change
  • Whetther you would be willing to take part in publicising this issue (this is for our reference, we won’t share your details with others)

Any information you provide will be kept in line with our confidentiality policy. Any personal information provided to us will not be shared externally without your consent.

Find out more about how we handle your data.

New briefing on the Charities Act 2016 – disqualification of senior managers and trustees with convictions

In 2017 we expect the new disqualification powers under the 2016 Charities Act to start.

These powers allow the Charity Commission to disqualify people (i.e. prevent them) from holding senior management positions, or from being a trustee of a charity, if they have certain criminal convictions – and a new waiver application process.

Unlock, Clinks and the Prison Reform Trust pushed for changes to the legislation, and we continue to work with Charity Commission and government on how these new powers might impact people with convictions, the charity sector, their current and future employees and trustees.

Both voluntary organisations and people with convictions need to understand the impact of this legislation; that’s why we will be producing guidance in early 2017. This new briefing, published jointly with Clinks, summarises what the disqualification is, some of the issues we have with it, and what we’re doing to support both people with convictions and the charity sector.

We’re keen to hear from people who will be personally affected by the changes when they come into force. Take a look at our questions to help understand if you’re affected, and how to get in touch with us.

You can find out more details about the work that we’re doing on this issue on our dedicated policy page.

Possible legal remedies for the online publication of spent convictions

If you have a spent conviction and are suffering reputational harm or distress as a result of material about that conviction being published online and/or which features in online searches against your name, legal remedies may be available.

We are currently working with Carter-Ruck, a law firm specialising in this area, who are willing to advise people with spent convictions on a “no win no fee” basis.

Further details can be found on our information hub.

Our response to the Charity Commission’s consultation on power to disqualify from acting as a trustee

We have today published our response to the Charity Commission’s consultation on power to disqualify from acting as a trustee


  1. In May 2016, the Charity Commission launched a consultation on power to disqualify from acting as a trustee.
  2. Download: Submission: Unlock’s response to Charity Commission consultation on power to disqualify from acting as a trustee
  3. More information about our policy work on enabling people with convictions to become trustees and run charities

Insurers are not following good practice when dealing with criminal records

Last month, the Financial Conduct Authority published an occasional paper on access to financial services. I fed into this work, particularly focusing on the issues people with convictions face in accessing insurance. So it was good to see the authors include an especially challenging section of the report focused at a lack of buy-in to industry guidance.

There was heavy reference to the work that Unlock has done with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), including developing good practice, but highlighted how:

“it is still commonplace for proposal forms to have questions such as “have you ever been convicted””

The ABI guidance states that it is good practice to refer only to ‘unspent’ convictions, so clearly insurers are not doing this.

Extract from the FCA occasional paper

Although it didn’t name the companies involved, the FCA paper included two anonymous examples of current questions by home insurers and motor insurers.

Extract from the FCA occasional paper

The poor wording of questions by insurers is a major problem. Unlock’s helpline regularly gets contacted by people using insurance websites and asking us for clarity about what they do and don’t need to disclose. Very often, this is because the insurance company hasn’t made it clear that they don’t need to disclose convictions that are now spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

This is something we’re looking at. We’ve had one our helpline advisors do some research into the questions asked by insurers, and we’re in the process of pulling this together and analysing the findings.

As an aside, it was good to see a number of other issues featured in the occasional paper, including:

  1. The numbers of people affected – In the infographic that the FCA used, they said that 750,000 people with unspent convictions and their families can struggle. This comes from a figure we presented a couple of years ago, and this is a conservative estimate of the numbers with unspent convictions. Although this figure is an underestimate for another reason – it doesn’t include those that are potentially covered by some of the misleading questions that insurers ask (see below). When this is taken into account, the numbers affected by the practice of insurers runs into the millions, given there’s over 10.5 million people in the UK with a criminal record.
  2. The lack of insurance products for people with unspent convictions
  3. How people with convictions can be good customers

More information

  1. You can find out more about the FCA occasional paper.
  2. There are details of our policy work on fair access to insurance and dealing with misleading questions.
  3. For practical self-help information on insurance, visit the information section on our website.
  4. There is practical guidance for insurers

Timetable for implementation – Charities Act 2016

The Cabinet Office has published a timetable for implementation of the Charities Act 2016, which received Royal Assent on the 16th May 2016.

The relevant section that impacts on people with criminal records will come into force on 1st April 2017.

We’re working with the Charity Commission and there’ll be more news in the coming months. We’ll be posting updates onto our dedicated policy page.

The Charities Bill receives Royal Assent








On the 16th March, the Charities Bill received Royal Assent.

Following on from concerns raised by Sir Edward Garnier in January, we’re pleased to see that:

  1. The Government has delayed the introduction of the changes to a minimum of 12 months (which is up from potentially only 6 months) which gives charities and people affected by the changes a chance to understand them and prepare accordingly
  2. The Government has responded to our concern about how offences from overseas were going to be treated by, instead, applying the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act as it applies in this country
  3. The Charity Commission has set up a working group and will consult with charities on the review of the waiver process
  4. The Government is going to lay a report on the impact of the bill on people with criminal records

We’re now focusing our efforts on working with the Charity Commission to ensure that:

  1. The review of the waiver process results in a fairer and more inclusive approach towards dealing with people who have convictions that want to become trustees of charities.
  2. There is clear guidance available to both charities and individuals on the impact of these changes and how they can work with the waiver process

We will continue to keep the trustee section of our website up to date with news and developments as they arise.


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