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Tag: Disclosure of criminal record

Applying for a new job? Do you know what you need to disclose to an employer?

Spent? Filtered? Basic DBS check? Standard or enhanced?

If you’ve got a criminal record and you’re applying for a new job or volunteering role, it’s important to know if and what you need to disclose and what will show-up if an employer does a DBS check.

Make the mistake of over or under-disclosing and you run the risk of your application being unsuccessful.

We’ve published a ‘What do I need to disclose for what job?form which can be used as a record of your convictions/cautions and when they’ll be spent/filtered and removed from your DBS certificate.

You can find all the information you need to complete the form on our information hub site but, if you’d prefer to go through it with one of our advisors, feel free to contact our helpline.

For more information

New tool to help work out if you need to disclose your criminal record

“Do I need to tell them about my criminal record?”. That’s one of the most common questions that our helpline receives when people are applying for work or volunteering roles.

But it’s not a question that has a straightforward answer. The starting point is:

You only have to disclose if you’re asked.”

But then it can get complicated. If you’re being asked, whether you need to tell them depends on (1) what type of role you’re applying for, and (2) your specific criminal record.

So to help with this, we’ve developed a simple tool. This brings together all of the things you need to answer the question “Do I need to tell them about my criminal record?”. It also signposts to one of our other tools, our disclosure calculator, where this is needed.

Let us know what you think!

As this is a new tool, we’re keen to get feedback. Is it useful? Could it be improved? Email your thoughts to

More information

Disclosure of police intelligence on enhanced DBS checks

Although Unlock as a charity primarily focuses on people with convictions and cautions, a recent case about a rape acquittal is an important one for a lot of people that use our website that have other things on their police record. 

At the end of July 2018 a case was heard in the Supreme Court [R (AR) -v- Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and another] relating to the lawfulness of the disclosure of a rape acquittal on an Enhanced Criminal Record Check (ECRC).

The details of the case are that in 2011 AR was acquitted of rape. At the time he was working as a taxi driver and it was alleged that he raped a 17 year old passenger in his taxi. His defence was that there had never been any sexual contact with the alleged victim.

Following acquittal, he applied for an enhanced DBS check in relation to a job he’d applied for and, under the ‘other relevant information’, the following statement was included:

On … police were informed of an allegation of rape. A 17 year old female alleged that she had been intoxicated and travelling in a taxi. The driver had conveyed her to a secluded location where he forcibly had sex with her without her consent.

AR was identified as the driver and was arrested. Upon interview he stated that the female had been a passenger in his taxi, but denied having sex with her, claiming that she had made sexual advances towards him which he had rejected. Following consideration by the CPS, he was charged with rape and appeared in court where he was found not guilty and the case was discharged.

In the Court of Appeal, AR argued that the criminal record check infringed his rights under Article 6(2) of the Human Rights Act because it effectively treated him as if he were guilty of the offence of which he had been acquitted; also the disclosure was disproportionate. The Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and dismissed the appeal.

The Supreme Court was asked to consider whether:

  1. The disclosure was a breach of the presumption of innocence
  2. The disclosure was procedurally unfair because it was inconsistent with AR’s acquittal and/or occurred without consultation
  3. The retention and disclosure of the data was a breach of article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

The appeal against the disclosure was dismissed as it was deemed reasonable, proportionate and no more than necessary to secure the objective of protecting young and vulnerable persons.

The court did not believe that it was appropriate for those responsible for an enhanced DBS check to conduct a detailed analysis of the evidence of the trial. Therefore it was not the case that disclosure could only be justified if the officers were in a position to form a positive view of likely guilt. The court held that the information was a matter of public record and might have come to the employer’s knowledge from other sources.

The court did state however that the case gave rise to more general concerns about the procedure as there is no clear guidance as to what weight should be given to an acquittal in different circumstances as well as a lack of information about how an employer would treat the disclosure.

Although the outcome of the case is disappointing, it’s important to note that relevant information is only disclosed in a small number of cases. The data provided by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) showed the following between April 2017 and March 2018:

Ms Richards acting for GMP was at pains to emphasise that an enhanced DBS check is only part of the information available to employers and would not necessarily lead to failure. The Supreme Court had been shown reports which emphasised the importance of not excluding those with convictions for employment but they said nothing about those who had been acquitted. The court stated that there was little guidance given to employers as to how to handle these issues but they believed that even when relevant information was expressed in entirely neutral terms, there must be a danger that the employer would infer that the disclosure would not have been made unless the chief officer had formed a view of likely guilt.

Although this case is separate to the Supreme Court filtering case that Unlock is involved in (which is still pending judgment), it will be interesting to see whether (if and if so how) the outcome of this case will feature in the judgment that the court gives on the filtering case.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on disclosure of police intelligence and enhanced checks
  2. Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on challenging the DBS filtering process
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Thinking of becoming a taxi driver? Will your criminal record stop you?

Following our advice post last year on applying for a taxi licence, our helpline continues to receive many enquiries relating to this and so we have produced some new information on applying for a taxi licence with a criminal record.

Given the initial cost of applying for the licence, possible problems in getting taxi insurance, and with concerns around having an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check, people with criminal records are often put off from applying for a taxi licence. However, a criminal record will not automatically stop you from getting a licence and like any job, your ability to disclose your criminal record effectively can make all the difference.

A Freedom of Information request by the BBC earlier this year revealed that across six councils in the north-west, 300 people with convictions have been granted licences since 2012. Blackpool Council stated that when reviewing licence applications they considered factors including the age of the conviction, the sentence/disposal imposed and the applicants conduct since the offence. They had granted licences to many drivers with convictions for theft, burglary and criminal damage.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on applying for a taxi licence and disclosing criminal records to employers 
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline

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.

Are there any advantages to disclosing your criminal record to your jobcentre/work programme advisor?

If you’re not asked about your criminal record then, legally, you don’t need to disclose any unspent convictions, but in our opinion, withholding this information means that your advisor may not be able to provide you with the best information, advice or service.

So, are there any other benefits in choosing to disclose?

The role of the jobcentre advisor is to support you back into employment. They will often have a good idea of the recruitment practices of local companies and how ‘friendly’ they are towards people with convictions. If your advisor has a good understanding of any potential problems you face in getting back into work (for example, an unspent conviction), they’ll be better placed to help you. You could even use this as an opportunity to test out your disclosure technique on your advisor.

Some companies have blanket bans on recruiting people with any unspent convictions, some ban people with certain types of offence. Failing the criminal record criteria isn’t going to secure you a job with these types of employers but, if you’ve not disclosed your conviction to your advisor and they believe you’ve got the relevant skills and experience, they’ll expect you to apply.

What if your conviction is spent?

For many jobs, you don’t need to disclose spent convictions. If these are the jobs you’re focusing on, you could choose to make that clear to your advisor in terms of your job search.

Some jobs, for example a cleaner in a school, are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and mean that you’ll need to disclose both spent and unspent convictions (unless it’s filtered). If you’re not comfortable in disclosing a spent conviction then, providing they know about it, your advisor can steer you away from applying for these types of jobs.

What else should you think about?

By voluntarily disclosing your criminal record, you’re placing a lot of trust in your advisor. However all advisors are bound by job centre confidentiality policies and the Data Protection Act.

Most advisors will welcome your honesty – it will make their job much easier and will hopefully help you both to establish a good working relationship.

If you choose to disclose your spent conviction and you’re only applying for jobs covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, make sure that your advisor knows that it’s for information purposes only and that there are only certain jobs where you’d need to disclose it.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our support getting into worklooking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering and disclosing to employers sections.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Moving on: Disclosing criminal convictions to prospective employers – when and how?

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on disclosing criminal convictions to prospective employers if you’re about to leave prison.

A copy of the article can be found below.

I’m just about to leave prison and I’m worried about disclosing my conviction to potential employers; are there any tips you can give me?

Irrespective of the skills and experience you might have, the addition of a criminal record can make job hunting a lot more difficult. There are many employers that are friendlier than others towards people with criminal records, but whatever type of employer you’re applying to, the key to success will be how well you disclose your criminal record.

Preparing to disclose

Before you start thinking about what, when and how to disclose, make sure you’re fully prepared.

  • Understand your criminal record – Even though your conviction will stay on the Police National Computer (PNC) until you’re 100 years old, you might not need to disclose it forever. You can find out what’s on your record, and how it might appear on any criminal record checks, by applying for a copy of your police record (it costs £10 and is known as a Subject Access Request).
  • Work out if or when your record becomes ‘spent’ – Providing your prison sentence wasn’t over 4 years then your conviction will become spent at some point under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA). For most jobs, you won’t need to disclose your conviction once it’s spent.
  • If an employer asks, know if you need to tell them – You only have to disclose your record if an employer asks; many will at some point in the recruitment process. If your conviction is unspent, then legally you’ll need to disclose it. If you don’t disclose when asked, an employer could revoke the job offer, you could be dismissed and you might receive a further conviction.

When should I disclose?

Every employer will have a slightly different recruitment process, and the point you get asked about your criminal record may be different for every job you apply for. You may be asked on an application form, at interview or after you’ve received a conditional offer. Try to find out what the employers process is and think about what you’d feel most comfortable with. We’re part of the ‘ban the box’ campaign and many national companies have signed up to this by removing the question about criminal records from their application form, instead asking later in the recruitment process.

How should I disclose?

You’ll need to be ready to tell an employer about the offence, when it happened, what was happening in your life at the time and what’s been happening since. Think about the concerns an employer might have about your conviction and decide how to tell your story to address these concerns. Practice your disclosure so that you’re ready when asked.

Some application forms will merely have a ‘tick-box’ whilst others will have space to explain your conviction. Generally, we wouldn’t advise that you disclose any specific details on the form. We’d suggest you tick the “Yes” box and then add a sentence such as “Happy to discuss if selected for interview”.

If you’re asked to provide details at application stage, you might choose to send a self-disclosure statement alongside your application. We wouldn’t normally advise this unless it’s specifically requested. If you disclose in this way, make sure that you send your letter to the correct person (if necessary, contact the company and find out who this is) and put it in a sealed envelope marked ‘confidential’. Keep a copy as evidence of what you’ve disclosed.

If you’re invited to attend an interview, you’ll need to be prepared to talk about your criminal record in case they ask you at this stage. Employers often ask questions to get a better understanding of what you might have previously disclosed. Try to give as much information as you can to allow the employer to make a properly informed decision.

Unlock’s top tips for disclosing

  • Whenever possible, try to disclose your record face-to-face; this tends to be the most effective way.
  • Know your criminal record well so that you can talk confidently about it. Any signs of hesitation or vagueness may make you look dishonest. If it helps, take a self-disclosure statement with you to the interview, which you can refer to if you need to.
  • Think in advance about the questions an employer might ask you. Prepare your answers so that you can talk about your criminal record in a positive way.
  • Answer the employer’s questions directly and honestly giving the right level of detail. Explain any mitigating circumstances which led to your offending but avoid ‘making excuses’. Talk about what you’ve learnt and how you’ve become a better person.
  • Your best chance of getting a job is to always be honest, upfront and positive. You may have a criminal record but if you can convince an employer that it’s not related to the job and that it won’t stop you from being a great employee then you’re in with a shot.



What’s the best way to explain gaps in your CV?

It can be your worst nightmare when you’re sat in an interview and asked this question:

Can you explain this gap in your CV

People have gaps in their CV’s for a number of reasons, but for people with a criminal record, this often comes about because of time spent in prison or having lost a previous job due to getting conviction. There can be a tendency amongst employers to overlook a candidate who has periods of time without work, and sometimes the gap in your CV is what can introduce the employer to knowing about your criminal record.

This is something we get asked a lot about by people with convictions applying for jobs, so we’ve published some new information, explaining gaps in your CV as a result of a criminal conviction  which aims to set out the best ways of dealing with this issue either on a CV, on an application form or at an interview.

It’s important to remember that employers do worry about gaps in CV’s as they often think  it casts doubt over an applicant’s commitment to employment. If you can successfully dispel this doubt, by explaining the gap in a positive way, showing that you have the initiative and drive for the role, then you’ve gone a long way towards dealing with this element of the problem.

For more information

How do you answer this – “Have you ever been dismissed or subject to disciplinary action?’”

We recently heard from someone who, about 5 years ago, was dismissed from his job for gross misconduct following a criminal conviction, even though the offence was committed outside of work.

Fortunately, he found another job almost immediately and has worked there ever since. Although he enjoys the work and has been promoted a couple of times, he believes that there are few further opportunities for progression added to which, the pay is relatively low.

Now that his conviction is spent, he’d like to apply for a new job. However, although he doesn’t have to disclose his spent conviction for most jobs, he’s found that many application forms ask the following question:

Have you ever been dismissed or subject to disciplinary action?’

He didn’t feel that he would be able to explain his dismissal without going into detail about his conviction which, legally, he isn’t required to do.

What would you do?

  1. Tick the ‘no’ box on the application form which might seem like lying
  2. Be honest and feel like you’re having to disclose your spent conviction

Is there a third option?

This isn’t the first time we’ve come across this.

Having successfully secured a job, individuals will often worry that if they apply for other jobs, their previous conviction may come to light or, they will need to disclose it to a new employer and risk being judged all over again. It’s often easier to ‘stay put’.

In this case, however, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) would be able to offer him some protection, especially as his conviction is spent and the jobs that he’s applying for are covered by the Act. Section 4(2) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act states:-

The person questioned shall not be subjected to any liability or otherwise prejudiced in law by reason of any failure to acknowledge or disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction in his answer to the question’.

The key phrase here is “circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction”.

This essentially means that if an application form asks a question about being dismissed or being subject to disciplinary action, which came about as a result of conviction that is now spent, the ROA allows you to say “no” to that question and not be penalised.

In practice, if you find yourself in similar circumstances to the one explained above, you should think about whether, if you don’t tell them, whether the employer might find out about your dismissal or disciplinary action in some other way. If you think they might, although you don’t legally need to, you may choose to still tell them but then explain it relates to a conviction that is spent now.

For more information

What’s the best way to approach a panel interview if you have a criminal record?

Panel interviews seem to be increasingly common for some employers looking for more rigorous ways to screen job seekers and spot the best talent.

As the name suggests, a panel job interview is where you’re interviewed by a group of interviewers – a ‘panel’. The panel may consist of a mix of senior or line managers, a representative from HR and, in some cases, a potential colleague.

One idea behind a panel interview is to put an interviewee under more pressure compared with a typical one-to-one interview. The panel will ask you a series of questions and will consider how you cope under such demanding conditions.

What would you do if one of the questions was about your criminal convictions?

Although it may not be good practice to spring a question about convictions on you in a panel interview, we know it happens. Details of your criminal record should officially only be known to relevant personnel, i.e. an HR Manager, Line Manager etc. Therefore, if the panel consists of a potential colleague, considering what and when to disclose may prove to be a bit of a minefield. How you deal with the question will often depend on whether or not you’ve already disclosed details earlier on in the process.

If you’ve not been asked about your record prior to interview

The advice we normally give would be not to disclose until asked. However, if you disclose at a panel interview, are successful and then subsequently find out that one of the panel members will be a work colleague, this could create a potentially awkward situation for you.

This can be a bit of a minefield. You may decide not to disclose your conviction during this type of interview because you are not sure whether all members of the panel should have access to that information. However, if you are successful and then disclose, you need to be aware that an employer may feel as though you have misled them and they could revoke the job offer.

If you can find out who is on the panel, this will help you to decide whether to disclose or not.

If you’ve disclosed prior to the interview, i.e. on an application form

In this situation, it’s likely that the panel will have been given copies of your completed application form and will therefore be aware of what you’ve disclosed. It will be in your best interest therefore to use this opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding your conviction so that all members have a better understanding of the situation and can make a more informed decision about any risk you are likely to pose.

How can you improve your chances of success?

  • Be prepared – Make sure you’ve researched the company and the job role you are applying for. If possible, try to find out who will be sitting on the interview panel and what their role in the company is. You will then be able to answer and ask questions that are relevant to them as well as the job role.
  • Rehearse your answers with friends and family especially answers to potentially difficult questions, for example gaps in your CV.
  • Engage with the whole panel. When you’re asked a specific question, maintain eye contact with the person asking it, but when you answer, address the whole panel.
  • Each member of the panel will come to the interview with their own agenda. Establish early on who the doubters might be and try to win them over first.

Panel interviews are nothing to dread. If you prepare, are armed with a positive attitude and some success stories, then you should have nothing to worry about. If just one member of the panel is particularly passionate about recruiting somebody with a criminal record, they could easily be in a better position than you to convince the others that you’re the best person for the job.

For more information

For practical self-help information – More information on disclosing to employers and, in particular, information on when and how to disclose.

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