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How do you disclose a conviction you don’t believe you’re guilty of?

The majority of our information around disclosing to an employer assumes that you will be declaring a criminal record for which you have accepted some guilt.

And as a charity, Unlock focuses on supporting people who have accepted responsibility for their actions and are now looking to move forward with their life.

But, how do you go about disclosing something which you don’t believe you’re guilty of?

Many are aware of how difficult it is to find a job if you’ve got a criminal record with 75% of employers admitting to discriminating against applicants on the basis of a criminal record.

However, if you’re fortunate enough to be offered an interview and the chance to explain your criminal record, employers will want to see that you’ve taken responsibility for your conviction and demonstrate that you’re not going to make the same mistake again. This is hard to do if you believe you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place.

If you try to put yourself in an employer’s shoes (some of whom have limited experience of the criminal justice system), stating that you didn’t do the thing you’ve been convicted of may lead them to believe that you’re just not prepared to face up to what you’ve done or not ready to accept any responsibility for your actions.

Option 1 – Accept responsibility

Some people who believe they’ve been wrongly convicted choose, for the purposes of disclosing to employers at least, to accept the fact that they have a conviction when seeking work and, recognising the above, present themselves as acknowledging their guilt.  This is where our main advice on disclosing to employers will be important.

For those who admit their guilt to something, but not the technical offence they were convicted of, it may be better to simply accept responsibility.

Option 2 – Stick to saying you’re not guilty

Some people want to convince an employer that they haven’t committed the offence they’ve been convicted of. If this is you, you need to bear in mind the challenges with this so you’ll need to think carefully of the best way of putting this across. If an employer will be doing any formal criminal record checks then you’ll need to explain what will appear on any certificate as well as giving some background as to the circumstances surrounding your arrest and conviction.

As you’re disclosing, remember you’re doing so to get a job, not to convince the employer that you’ve been wrongly convicted. Concentrate on demonstrating why you’re the best person for the job, not what’s wrong with the criminal justice system.

Ultimately, it’s a difficult choice

As a charity Unlock believes that, ultimately, people need to accept the situation that they’re in and move forward. All of our experience of working with individuals and employers shows that a key way that people overcome the barrier of their criminal record is by taking responsibility and ownership of the past and making it clear to employers that history won’t repeat itself. That said, the reality is that there is undoubtedly people who have a criminal record who have been convicted of things they didn’t do. Ultimately, it’s a difficult (and very personal) choice.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our disclosing criminal records to employers section
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.


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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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