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Take action for a fairer criminal records system

Introducing the FairChecks campaign - and how you can help

Today is the relaunch of the FairChecks campaign, run by Unlock and the charity Transform Justice.

FairChecks is calling for an overhaul of the criminal records system, which currently leaves too many people unfairly anchored to their past. We have three key asks:

Remove criminal records for cautions

Cautions are used for minor offences like graffiti or shoplifting that are better resolved without going to court. Many people accept cautions without realising they carry a criminal record, and will continue to show up on standard and enhanced DBS checks for years. The government’s new system for cautions will mean people have to tell employers about a caution for three months after accepting it. This will blight the job prospects of thousands more people who will have to reveal a minor offence.

Wipe the slate clean for childhood offences

Childhood criminal records often follow people into adulthood, hampering their efforts to find work or pursue further study. Everyone deserves the opportunity to start their adult life without past mistakes continuing to haunt them. All minor offences should be automatically removed from young people’s records at 18 and there should be an opportunity for more serious offences to be wiped from the record through a review process.

Stop forcing people to reveal short prison sentences

Around 10,000 people each year receive a prison sentence of less than one month. After a certain period, a short prison sentence no longer appears on a basic criminal record check. But lots of jobs require more detailed enhanced checks. Anyone who has served a prison sentence, even for just one day, or been given a suspended prison sentence must reveal this to employers forever if they want to work in the NHS, social services, and many other jobs.


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  1. The issue with people who have a criminal record being treated unfairly, is not because of their criminal record history, but the way that employers risk assess that information.

    Constantly campaigning to have less and less information disclosed, will eventually result in a DBS Certificate being unfit for purpose. Meaning employers will not have the information they need to make safer recruitment decisions, which will put children, young people and vulnerable adults at risk of harm.

    Instead of trying to hide people’s criminal records from employers, Unlock should be educating and training employers to make fair risk assessments of disclosure information, only based on the information disclosed, with its relevance to the position applied for.

    We should be doing everything we can to keep women and girls safe in our communities. The unintended consequence of a campaign to remove even more disclosure information, is that Unlock will be aiding male perpetrators of violence and harm against women, to hide their offending behaviour from employers, charities and organisations.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      We agree with you that it’s important to educate and support employers to enable them to make fair and appropriate risk assessments of individuals – and a great deal of our work involves doing exactly this. However, we also know that because of stigma, a huge number of employers will be reluctant to hire someone with any form of criminal record, whether it’s relevant to the role or not. Of course safeguarding is vital. As you will be aware, violent and sexual offences will continue to show up on Enhanced DBS checks – for example if someone is applying for a role working with children or vulnerable adults – and the FairChecks campaign which the above post refers to is not calling for that to change. What we are calling for is a fairer approach, stopping very old and irrelevant offences from holding people back. We don’t believe it’s proportionate for someone to be prevented from accessing employment because of a caution or minor offence from many years ago. It’s also important to note that criminal record checks must not be seen as the be all and end all of safeguarding; many people who abuse women or children from positions of trust have no prior criminal record, for example the high profile cases we’ve seen in the police recently.

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

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