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Filtering process for old/minor convictions put forward by Government

Unlock, the national charity for people with convictions, has today welcomed Government proposals which, if introduced, would mean that some old and minor cautions and convictions will no longer be disclosed on standard and enhanced level criminal record checks, carried out for employers by the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS).

In January 2013, the Court of Appeal found that the current system of disclosing all convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings, no matter how old or minor, was not compatible with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (the right to a private and family life). The Government has filed an application for permission to appeal against this ruling, so for the time being the system stays unchanged. But, in response to the judgement itself, the Government has put forward a filtering process. The changes would not come into force until after the legislation has completed its passage through Parliament.

For adults with a conviction, it would not be disclosed if (a) the conviction was more than 11 years ago, (b) it is the only conviction on record, and (b) it did not result in a prison sentence. Serious violent and sexual offences would continue to be disclosed. For adults with cautions, they will not be disclosed if (a) the caution was more than 6 years ago and (b) it is not in the list of serious violent and sexual offences. For people under 18 at the time, the periods would be 5 and half years for a conviction, and 2 years for cautions.

Christopher Stacey, Unlock’s Director of Services, who advised the Government in 2011 as part of an expert panel set up by the Home Office to look at this issue, said, “Since 2002, more and more employers have been using standard and enhanced level checks as a reason for not employing people with old and minor offences on their record. The current system discloses minor cautions and convictions until a person’s 100th birthday, and our peer-helpline regularly deals with people whose minor convictions from, in many cases, more than 20 years ago stop them from getting work in the profession they’re qualified and experienced in. In 2011, we provided the Government with clear proposals on how a filtering system could work. Although today’s proposals don’t go as far as we would like, the acceptance that there should in fact be a more balanced approach to disclosing convictions is an important step forward, and we hope that this system can be introduced as soon as possible.”

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Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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