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Isn’t 45 years long enough to have to disclose a criminal record?

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Laura has been able to work very successfully as a librarian despite her criminal record. However, she feels strongly that the current disclosure laws need to be changed so that there comes a time when people with very old convictions no longer have to reveal them to employers when they apply for standard or enhanced DBS checks.

I’m 65 years of age. Forty-five years ago, when I was about 20 years old, I was arrested and received a conviction for two counts of possession of cannabis and was given a community order and a fine. My record has been clean ever since then.

Following my conviction, I went to university and obtained a degree in librarianship. At this time my criminal record didn’t really cause me too many problems and there wasn’t really any such thing as criminal record checks.

Before I started applying for jobs I looked at the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and from what I read it appeared that I wouldn’t be allowed to work with children or young adults, become a police or probation officer or work for social services. I also thought it meant I couldn’t serve as a magistrate or sit on a jury.

However, when I applied to work as a librarian in a school in 1981, I didn’t disclose my criminal record as I didn’t feel that it was relevant to the work that I’d be doing. I was offered the job and from then on, my career went from strength to strength.

I continued working in education until a school caretaker called Ian Huntley was found guilty of murdering 2 schoolgirls. From that date on, any job that involved working with children or vulnerable adults required you to have an enhanced criminal record check (known as CRB checks at that time).

The school I was working for at the time did as they were required to do and carried out the check on me. As soon as they were presented with the certificate I was called in for an interview. This was an awful experience and extremely embarrassing but ultimately, my employers felt that as I had an exemplary work record, they’d be happy for me to continue in my role.

However, whenever I applied for other jobs, I knew that enhanced checks would be carried out and I’d have to disclose my conviction. This happened for the 27 years that I worked as a librarian and although my applications were successful for the majority of the jobs that I applied for, I’m aware that I’ve also been refused jobs because of this conviction.

I’m currently working on a part-time basis as an examination invigilator and again had to disclose my 45 year old conviction.

I’ve recently booked a holiday to the USA and because I was honest and ticked the ‘Yes’ box on the Visa Waiver application, I was refused an ESTA and will now have to apply for a visa. This is going to cost me approximately £300 in total and will involve an interview at the US Embassy which I’m really not looking forward to at all.

I’m sure that if I were arrested for possession today it’s unlikely that I would receive a conviction which resulted in a 2-year community order, I’d probably get a caution as it was my first offence.

I feel very strongly that the law needs to change. Having to disclose my conviction at the age of 65 for something that I did 45 years ago makes me feel like I’m continually being judged and punished for something that happened a very long time ago.

By Laura  (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

Unlock has campaigned for a long time for the current disclosure regime to be revised so that people like Laura who have more than one count under one conviction can benefit from having their conviction filtered from standard/enhanced DBS checks.

Last January, the Supreme Court ruled that two aspects of the filtering regime – as it applies to multiple convictions and childhood cautions – are disproportionate and a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government has yet to properly respond to the Supreme Court judgment. As it stands, the filtering rules remain the same.

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on filtering on our information hub site.
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