Nothing is achieved by criminalising young people. Lets work together to support, educate and listen to them
There’s been a huge amount of media coverage recently about violent crime amongst children and young people in the UK. However, it seems that the Government’s answer to this is to give more power to the police to surveil, stop and search and punish young people. Based on his own experience, Rhys questions whether criminalising young people is the answer.
I was diagnosed with emotional behavioural difficulties (EBD) when I was in year 2 of primary school and I subsequently transitioned into a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school. The school was for children like me who found mainstream education challenging. Due to the nature of the school, staff were trained in restraint which was used to control certain behaviours.
When I was 14 years old I was in a maths lesson at school when I got into an altercation with another boy over a Pokemon card. This altercation became physical and staff intervened to apply restraints to both myself and the other child. As I was in crisis at this time and surprised by the sudden physical contact with another person, I swung my arm and accidently whacked my teacher on her forearm. This caused a small red mark that in all honesty was barely visible and, I was later told, had disappeared completely the following day.
At the time of this incident a new head teacher had just joined the school. He made the decision to contact the police as a member of staff had been physically struck. I had a really good relationship with the staff member concerned and they were reluctant for the police to become involved but, the Head made the executive decision to involve them.
I was charged with assault. My mum was fined £30 and I had to attend meetings with probation over a certain number of weeks.
This assault was not premeditated, it was a total accident which occurred during a time I was in a crisis situation, in a setting that was supposed to have professionals trained to deal with said situation. If this had been intentional I would be able to accept the offence but I wasn’t even looking at the teacher at the time, I was focused on the other child I was arguing with.
Upon leaving school with my GCSE’s, I trained in children’s care, learning and development. It took 3 meetings before I was accepted on the course as I had an assault conviction on my DBS certificate.
After receiving my qualifications, I was successful in my application for a full-time teaching assistant role. Since then I’ve been working in education and was promoted to a management role in the second school I worked in. However, every role I’ve applied for always starts with embarrassment. I have a great interview and go through all of my experience and then have to disclose at the end that I have a conviction for assault from when I was in school as a 14-year old child.
Although it has never impacted on any application I have made (I have always been the successful candidate in all but one position I have been interview for), it does put a downer on my initial first days of any new job.
During my career I have worked with some of Manchester’s most challenging young people. I have been physically assaulted, spat and sworn at, received homophobic and racist abuse yet, I have never criminalised a young person for their behaviours. Whether this is right or wrong is open to debate but in my opinion, criminalising a young person who is attending a provision because they struggle with their behaviour can only be detrimental. I’ve experienced this first hand at the age of 14 and it has followed me throughout my life.
I am now 30 years old and just about to qualify as a social worker but in order to get on the course I again had to disclose my conviction and attend a separate meeting before I was signed off as ‘safe’. The same thing happened before I was able to attend any of my work placements.
The sad thing is, this will show forever on my enhanced DBS certificate – it will never go away. I will still be disclosing that I whacked my teacher on the arm when I was 14 when I’m 60 years old!
I believe a review is urgently required into what information is disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate. Cases should be looked at on an individual basis so that only convictions which are relevant and appropriate are disclosed. Does it really benefit anyone that I have to tell every new employer about an incident which took place when I was a young child?
The most recent changes to the filtering rules introduced in November 2020 means that youth cautions will now be filtered immediately from standard and enhanced DBS certificates. However, for those individuals who received a conviction before they were 18, this will appear on their standard/enhanced DBS certificate for at least 5.5 years possibly forever if the offence they were convicted of is non-filterable. This is one of the reasons why Unlock believes that a more nuanced approach needs to be taken to the disclosure of convictions and a discretionary filtering system introduced.
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Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.
A chance at last – changes to filtering rules will give me a clean DBS at last
The 28 November 2020 saw changes to the criminal records disclosure regime come into force and like many people, Tony was able to see his convictions from over 45 years ago removed from standard and enhanced DBS certificates.
I was born into a violent, chaotic, impoverished and broken home and it was probably due to my dysfunctional family life that I was constantly in trouble with the police, mainly for theft or vandalism.
When I was aged about 10, Social Services got involved and I was placed into the ‘care of the local authority’ and became part of the care system. Initially I was sent to a very austere Children’s Home ; a cold, unfeeling, loveless place. In addition to an almost starvation diet we were subject to strict petty rules where even the slightest infringement resulted in a hard slap across the face. I generally took this in my stride, probably because I’d been subject to far worse at the hands of my violent, unstable mother.
Eventually I was transferred to a boarding school for maladjusted boys. It sounds terrible but the headmaster and his wife were fantastic. We were treated fairly, there was a happy, caring atmosphere, plenty of food and regular day trips to look forward to. Everything started to improve for me.
However, although I was old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, I was extremely dishonest. I had absolutely no moral compass, boundaries or principles and it was true to say that ‘if it wasn’t nailed down, I’d steal it’.
Up to the age of 15 I committed various criminal acts generally theft and received a conditional discharge or a fine, but never any time in prison. Since then I’ve had a clean record.
I served in the Armed Forces for ten years, worked as a security officer and then spent 10 years in financial management. In all this time, there was never the slightest doubt about my honesty.
Then in 2006, I realised that I wanted to try and put my own personal experiences to good use and work within the criminal justice system. I applied for several jobs but was rejected at either the application stage or as soon as the organisation received my DBS certificate. I couldn’t believe that 30 years on from my last conviction, my criminal record was having such a major impact on my life.
Never one to give up, I applied to have my convictions ‘stepped down’ under the police ‘weeding’ procedure (a similar system to what’s now known as filtering) and the police agreed. All my convictions were removed from my criminal record certificate.
Then in 2013 the law changed once more and hey presto, because I had more than one conviction, they all suddenly appeared again. As a 61 year old semi-retired grandfather my convictions were being disclosed again, 45 years later.
When I read the email that said the law would be changing and multiple convictions would now be eligible for filtering I almost cried. The continued disclosure of sensitive and often irrelevant information is seriously blighting people’s lives and I for one am looking forward to seeing my ‘clean’ DBS certificate for the first time in years.
In July 2020 the government announced plans to change the rules on what is disclosed on (and removed from) standard and enhanced criminal record checks issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This was in response to a Supreme Court ruling in 2019. This information sets out the filtering process incorporating the changes made by the government that came into effect on 28 November 2020.
Note – This information focuses on how the filtering process works in England and Wales
Disclosure Scotland has guidance on the filtering process that applies to standard and enhanced checks in Scotland on their website.
The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has guidance on the filtering process that applies to standard and enhanced checks in Northern Ireland on their website.
Why is this important?
If you are applying for a job or role which is ‘exempt’ from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and which requires a standard or enhanced DBS check, your DBS certificate will disclose details of all spent and unspent cautions and convictions unless they are eligible for removal (often referred to as filtered or protected).
If your criminal record meets the criteria set out below it will automatically be removed from your DBS certificate at the time an application is made.
Many organisations ask individuals for some kind of criminal record self-disclosure at application stage and it’s important therefore to know whether your offence will be removed from your DBS certificate to ensure that you do not disclose it to an employer if, legally, you don’t need to.
Since May 2013, standard and enhanced DBS checks stopped disclosing all cautions and convictions after the introduction of a process referred to as ‘filtering’.
In July 2020, in response to a Supreme Court ruling in 2019, the government announced further changes to the process which came into force on 28 November 2020. These changes will see more people benefiting from having cautions and/or convictions removed from standard and enhanced certificates, allowing them to apply for jobs without the need to disclose old cautions and/or convictions.
Information that is filtered will be removed from a DBS check automatically at the point you apply for one. However, cautions and convictions do not get ‘removed’ or ‘wiped’ from the Police National Computer (PNC).
Recent changes to the criminal records disclosure regime
The changes which have been made to the criminal records disclosure regime apply to jobs and voluntary roles that involve a standard or enhanced check issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The new rules mean that:
Warnings, reprimands and youth cautions (including conditional cautions) will no longer be automatically disclosed on a DBS certificate.
The multiple conviction rule has been removed. This means that individuals with more than one conviction will have each conviction considered individually against the criteria, rather than all being automatically disclosed.
How filtering works
What will be disclosed on a standard or enhanced DBS check?
The rules around what cautions and/or convictions are automatically disclosed are set out in legislation. The table below provides details of what a standard or enhanced certificate must include:
Reprimands, final warnings and youth cautions (including conditional cautions) received when under the age of 18 will be removed from standard and enhanced checks immediately, regardless of the offence. This means that even if your caution was for a specified offence it would still be removed.
Adult cautions will be removed from standard and enhanced checks if 6 years have passed since the date of issue, providing it is not for a specified offence.
The process applies no matter how many cautions you have. Cautions will be removed even if you have others which are not (for example where others are for a specified offence or they are too recent).
What will not show up? Convictions
Convictions received when 18 or over will be removed from standard and enhanced checks if:
11 years have passed since the date of conviction.
they did not result in a prison sentence (or suspended sentence).
they were not for a specified offence.
The process applies no matter how many convictions you have. They will be removed even if you have others which are not (for example where others are for specified offences or they are too recent).
For a conviction received when under 18, the same rules apply as for adult convictions, except that the elapsed time period is 5.5 years.
Offences that stay on (‘specified offences’)
A ‘specified offence’ is one which is on the list of offences that will never be filtered from standard and enhanced DBS checks. The list includes a range of offences which relate to sexual or violent offences, or are relevant in the context of safeguarding.
The table below provides a summary of the types of offences which are eligible for removal and those that are not.
Find out whether your conviction/caution will be filtered
To establish whether your caution and/or conviction is going to be removed from your standard or enhanced check and, doesn’t need to be disclosed to an employer, you can use our flowchart below:
Positions not covered by filtering
There are a small number of jobs where filtered cautions and/or convictions can be taken into account. Some examples of this include police vetting for police constables and cadets. A court ruling in 2017 established that the filtering rules should be applied by the police when recruiting for other roles such as service support officers. Other positions include:
Constables and persons appointed as police cadets to undergo training with a view to becoming constables and naval, military and air force police;
Any office or employment in the Serious Fraud Office or in the National Crime Agency;
The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and any office or employment in their service;
The Official Solicitor and his deputy;
Certain appointments to the office of Public Trustee;
Any office, employment or other work which is concerned with the establishment of, operation of, or access to a database under section 12 of the Children Act 2004;
Firearms dealer; and
A person who is required to obtain an explosives certificate.
Disclosure of criminal records in these instances is not provided by the DBS.
Other information disclosed on enhanced DBS certificates
In addition to cautions and convictions recorded on the PNC, enhanced certificates may also include police intelligence (approved information) if a chief officer of a police force considers it relevant. The disclosure of this information is subject to statutory guidance but the police could, in principle, disclose information about offences which have been filtered from an enhanced certificate if they felt that it was relevant to the position applied for and ought to be disclosed.
We have not previously seen any evidence of this but we would be interested in hearing from anybody who has had filtered cautions/convictions disclosed on their enhanced DBS certificate. Please email us at email@example.com.
If you use the DBS Update Service
If you are signed up to the DBS Update Service it is important to note that the filtering of a caution or conviction would not lead to a status change. A status change is only prompted when there is new information to be added, or an offence needs to be changed or amended, or because you have become barred. An offence which has been filtered would mean the removal of information from your certificate.
If you require a new certificate which does not show cautions or convictions which have been removed, you will need to apply for a new DBS check.
If an organisation currently holds information about your criminal record
In order to comply with data protection legislation any organisation that keeps criminal record information will need to consider how they manage the data they hold.
If you have previously disclosed details of your criminal record to an employer, university etc we recommend that you ask them to amend or delete their records as soon as your caution and/or conviction is filtered under your rights of rectification.
Information for employers
Where a role is included in the ROA Exceptions Order, employers can ask about cautions and convictions which are ‘not protected’ (filtered). In light of the changes introduced in November 2020, employers will need to review the questions they ask on application forms together with any guidance they provide.
If an employer takes into account a conviction or caution which has been removed (possibly because it was disclosed in error) then they could be acting unlawfully. You can find further information on our spent and unspent convictions and employment law page.
Below are some scenarios that will help to explain how the rules work in practice:
Marcus was a teenager when he was convicted of 6 offences of theft between 1992 and 1994. These will no longer be disclosed on standard or enhanced DBS checks as the convictions happened more than 5.5 years ago, when Marcus was under 18.
Sasha was convicted of 4 counts of benefit fraud in May 2012, when was was 31. These will be removed from standard or enhanced DBS checks in May 2023, 11 years after Sasha was convicted as an adult.
Anita received a reprimand for arson at age 11, and a final warning for ABH aged 14. Reprimands and final warnings, issued to under 18’s and since replaced by youth cautions, will never be disclosed on standard or enhanced checks, regardless of the offence.
Lenny was convicted of ABH at age 14. He received a youth referral order. His conviction will continue to be disclosed on standard or enhanced checks because he was convicted of an offence that is on the list of offences which cannot be filtered.
Kyle accepted a youth caution for common assault in 2001, when he was 16. He was convicted of drug possession in 2010 when he was 25 and paid a fine. His youth caution will never be disclosed on standard or enhanced checks. His conviction for drug possession will be removed from checks in 2021 – 11 years after the date of conviction.
Abdi was convicted of drink driving in 2009 when he was an adult – he was disqualified and paid a fine. Three years later, he was convicted of drink driving again and was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year. Abdi’s first conviction will be filtered from a standard or enhanced DBS check this year, 11 years after he was convicted. His second conviction will always be disclosed because he received a suspended prison sentence.
Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed can be found here.
Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
Domestic violence against men: It’s no laughing matter
Whilst abuse of women is widely known about, it’s not widely recognised that men can be victims too. Finn’s story highlights the lasting impact that this lack of understanding and empathy can have.
I’m a 38 year old male student nurse. My life is pretty good at the moment, but things could have been very different.
Rewind to 2008. I was in a relationship with a woman and we had a young child together. I was also the victim of domestic abuse. Yes, you heard that right, I was the victim of domestic violence.
The shame I felt was immense and I didn’t know how to speak out; I didn’t think this sort of thing happened to men. After several false starts, I eventually mustered up the courage to speak to my line manager at work, opening up to him about everything that I was being subjected to at home. It was the hardest, most difficult thing I’ve ever had to talk about.
At the end of this outpouring of emotion, I looked up and him and – he laughed at me.
He didn’t really say anything but I knew that he thought I was a pathetic excuse for a man. This just reaffirmed what I thought of myself, the emotional abuse had stripped away my self-worth and confidence.
It was a fact, I really couldn’t talk to anybody, believing I’d get the same reaction. And so the abuse continued and I went into self-destruct mode. I started missing work, struggling to leave the house because I didn’t feel worthy enough. I had to get out of the relationship but I didn’t know how.
I had no money of my own and so, in a moment of madness and out of desperation I claimed for some hours at work that I didn’t work and also some benefits that I wasn’t entitled to, hoping to get enough money together to leave the relationship. I was due to start university the following year to train as a nurse and that’s all I clung onto.
That one moment of stupidity cost me my job. I was dismissed and also received a police caution. During both my disciplinary and the police interview I wanted to tell them about what was going on in my private life but once again the thought of being laughed at stopped me.
But worse was to come.
I’d started my nursing degree and only been on the course for a couple of weeks when I was told that as a result of the police caution my university place was being withdrawn.
As my dreams of a career in nursing disintegrated I somehow found the courage to end the relationship. My son initially stayed with his mother but she soon decided that motherhood wasn’t for her and she wanted to pursue her career, and so he came to live with me. This was the turning point for me, I knew I had to make a life for myself and my child. I kept the shame I felt about my caution and the domestic violence I’d suffered buried deep and just resigned myself to the fact that I’d never be able to carve out a career for myself as a nurse.
I threw myself into bringing up my son and started working in a care home to support us both. I gained numerous qualifications and got promoted to manager, but this wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a nurse.
I knew deep down that I’d never be able to truly move on with my life until I’d got closure on the past. So I arranged to meet with somebody from the HR department of the company I’d been sacked from in 2008. I was incredibly anxious, worried that the response I’d get would be really negative or worse still, I’d be laughed out of the room. But I did what I should have done at the time and explained the reason why I’d needed to claim for hours I hadn’t worked. To my utter amazement, the HR manager was incredible telling me that I should have spoken to them at the time, that my domestic situation would have been considered as mitigating circumstances and I would in all likelihood have kept my job. For the first time in ages I started to see that I wasn’t a bad person.
When I’d arranged to meet with HR all I wanted was recognition that the way my line manager had treated me was wrong. However, they actually went further than that offering my a number of voluntary roles to improve my employability and eventually taking me on in a paid position.
My confidence grew and I began thinking again about becoming a nurse. Wanting to find out what my chances were of being accepted onto a nursing degree course, I found the details of Unlock online. After giving them details of my caution, the advisor at the end of the phone told me that my caution was ‘protected’ and would be filtered from my DBS certificate – I didn’t need to disclose it at all.
Two years ago, I completed my university application form and after a short interview I was accepted onto the course. A couple of weeks later I received an application pack from the NHS trust where I would be doing my work placement. The form asked whether I had any unprotected cautions or convictions and I proudly ticked the ‘No’ box.
I’ve just finished the first year of my nursing degree and I’m loving it. I’ve started to believe in myself again and taken control of my life. I’ve spent years beating myself up over the mistakes I made but at long last I feel able to move on.
In many ways, the world is a different place to how it was in 2008 when I told my line manager that I was a victim of domestic abuse. However, the popular image of this type of domestic violence is still based on the gender stereotype of a male villain and a female victim and incredibly, laughter is still a common response to male domestic violence.
Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to this issue on our online forum
Gone but not forgotten – Understanding the meaning of a spent conviction
A spent conviction presents real opportunities for people to move on with their lives following a conviction but Amy wants more to be done so that people with a criminal record can truly put their past mistakes behind them.
At the beginning of May I reached another mile stone in my criminal justice journey – my conviction became spent. Ten years from that day in court I am, according to the law, a fully rehabilitated individual.
But what does it mean. Well, I’ll pay less for my house and car insurance and I’ll no longer have to go to one of those ‘specialist’ insurers; I can apply for lots of jobs without having to disclose my conviction and my basic DBS certificate will now be blank – “nothing to see here”. I can be a trustee of a charity without having to apply for a waiver and I can apply to Google to have the links to my name removed.
So as you can see it’s a pretty big deal in the life of a person with a criminal record. It feels strange then that there are so few people I can share it with and it’s obviously not the done-thing to celebrate. If you go into Clintons Cards they’ll be a choice of ‘Happy Divorce Day’ cards but not one saying ‘Congratulations on your spent conviction’. I get it – it’s not something to be proud of, I shouldn’t have broken the law in the first place.
This really got me thinking – they’ll be lots of times when I’ll no longer need to disclose my conviction but it will always be there, not just in my head but still on the Police National Computer. If I want to apply for a job that’s exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act it will appear on my standard or enhanced DBS certificate and if I want to travel overseas I’ll have to disclose it on visa application forms.
Just think about that for a minute. The law says that I don’t need to disclose my spent conviction to fly a plane for British Airways or serve in the British Army, presumably because I pose no risk. But, if I want to be a football steward or a bouncer in a nightclub I’ll have to disclose and it’s more than likely that an employer will reject my application just because my DBS certificate isn’t ‘clean’.
As it stands, my criminal record will never be eligible for filtering and although I’m sure that my conviction isn’t relevant to a football steward/bouncer job, there’s no mechanism in place that would allow the DBS to apply a discretionary filtering process and disclose only those convictions relevant to the job.
It’s sad to think that my criminal justice journey has come to an end and where I am now is as good as it’s going to get. That’s not to say that I’m disheartened, I know there are people in a fair worse place than me and I’m hopeful that there is an appetite for change. 2014 saw changes made to the ROA for the first time in 40 years and at the start of 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that some aspects of the current filtering regime were disproportionate and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. We just need to ensure that we put pressure on the government to act now and make those changes so that those of us who truly want to move on and leave the past behind can.
Together with the charity Transform Justice, Unlock has launched the #FairChecks movement to help push for a fresh start for the criminal records system. Our outdated criminal records regime is holding hundreds of thousands of people back from participating fully in society. This must change. The #FairChecks movement is calling for the government to launch a major review of the disclosure of criminal records to reduce the length of time a record is revealed.
Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to filtering on our online forum.
Isn’t 45 years long enough to have to disclose a criminal record?
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.
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.
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.
Discuss this issue – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
I’ve worked hard to be part of a system that’s now holding me back – problems with the UK criminal record disclosure system
There are many people who, as youths, picked up convictions for minor offences. However, having worked hard to gain an education and contribute to society, they find themselves in a similar situation to Tom – being judged by employers who only see them as a safeguarding risk.
As a young lad I was the class clown; the one that never went to class, never did my exams and eventually got expelled – it was classed as ‘early study leave’ at that time. With few qualifications I worked in factories for a while and then decided to go and work abroad for several months.
I really enjoyed the time I spent overseas and I started to plan for all the things I was going to do in the future. However, when I returned home I pretty much went back to my previous behaviours. It became a very common occurrence to get arrested for various ‘petty’ offences – drunk and disorderly, possession of cannabis progressing to possession of cocaine, criminal damage and battery.
For the best part of five years I never claimed a penny in benefits, was employed throughout and always paid into ‘the system’. I began to change my life around properly about 3.5 years ago when I realised that the time had come to seek help from a substance misuse service. The help I received was priceless and I soon began to volunteer for the service myself.
I really enjoyed volunteering; it helped me personally, but I was also getting some good feedback from clients that I was working with. I started to apply for trainee roles with the company and eventually I was offered an 18-month temporary contract with them.
I knew this was the field I wanted to work in, but I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a career. I went to night school to do a GCSE in English and then I enrolled for a degree course with the Open University. I’m now in my second year and considering that I’ve not done any form of studying for years and years. I’m doing OK. As well as the success in my career, I’ve now got my own place to live, I’ve got a car and even a dog and I regularly raise money for charity.
However, for all the positive stuff that I’ve done, I’ve just realised that it’s impossible to escape your past. A few days ago, I had a fantastic interview at a local care home; I’d really gelled with the manager and I was quietly confident that I’d be offered the job. I’d been asked to call into the care home to pick up some documents and I thought this was a really good sign.
When I arrived, the manager seemed a bit different to how he’d been at the interview and asked me to come into his office. He then said:
We have a problem. I’ve discussed your criminal record disclosure with HR and we’re unable to take your application any further. The company believe that you could be a safeguarding risk.”
I could feel my eyes starting to fill with tears. Even though my last conviction had been approved 9 years before, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I’d made drastic changes to better myself and I wanted to continue to do so. I found it difficult to understand how I could be penalised for something that I’d done so long ago.
I’ve made such an effort to conform, to behave and be part of “the system” yet that system is stopping me from doing so. Because I’ve got several convictions and I want to work in regulated activity, I’m always going to need to disclose the details of my past.
It’s clear to me that the UK system of rehabilitation and criminal record disclosure isn’t working and is one that urgently needs addressing.
Back in January 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that two aspects of the current filtering regime were disproportionate and in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the way multiple convictions and childhood cautions are dealt with.
We hope that it’s not too long before changes are made to the system and that people like Tom will be able to leave his past in the past.
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My caution is still showing on my check but so far it’s not held me back
Due to the nature of her offence, Jazmin’s caution for affray isn’t currently eligible for filtering. Although it hasn’t stopped her from achieving her goal to be a teacher, she does still find it difficult to talk about her experience and the circumstances surrounding her caution.
Almost ten years ago, I was in the last year of university and had received a teacher training placement to start later in the year.
Not long after getting my placement, I was out one evening with my partner when we got into an argument and he ended up head butting me in the face and knocked me to the floor. I was so shocked that when I got up, I started to fight back when suddenly the police were there and we were both arrested.
The police were sure that this was a case of domestic violence and tried to get me to press charges. I loved my partner and this was just a one-off incident, so I refused. The police took the decision to caution us both for affray. I was distraught and just wanted to get away from the police station to I accepted the caution without fully understanding the implications of doing so.
The next day, I phoned the university and explained the situation to them, fully expecting to be dismissed from the course. The administrator was extremely kind and asked me to come in to discuss the matter with the head teacher. I was so ashamed and really struggled to admit the fact that my partner had assaulted me.
Thankfully, the head teacher allowed me to stay on the course and I qualified the following year. Sadly over time, the abuse from my partner escalated and I finally managed to get the courage to leave him.
I’ve been teaching for ten years now and worked in four schools. With every job I applied for I had to disclose the caution and re-tell my story. So far, every head teacher has been very understanding and I’m grateful that the very first one took a chance on me.
The fact that I’ve now been teaching for so long works in my favour and the fact that I’ve been successfully employed in schools despite this mark on my record sets a precedent. I hate that this horrible point in my life will dog me for my entire career, and every time I’m asked about it the shame and embarrassment hangs over me for weeks.
I was naive about cautions when I accepted one and I hope that one day cases like mine will be given due consideration for removal. In the meantime, I hope to raise awareness and education about cautions, particularly when domestic violence and partner abuse is involved.
My advice to anyone thinking that a caution may stop you is to swallow your pride, be honest and apply anyway.
Despite Jazmin’s previous experience of disclosure being very positive, there is little doubt that she still finds it embarrassing to talk about. The incident which led to Jazmin’s caution was approximately 10 years ago and since then, she has forged a successful career as a teacher. For many women like Jazmin, disclosure is not just about having potential employers view them as a ‘criminal’ but also about being seen as a ‘victim’.
The judges in the Supreme Court case around filtering broadly agreed that some violent offences ‘may be’ considered a serious offence and should continue to be disclosed. Unlock will continue to challenge all aspects of the filtering criteria.
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Although my conviction can be filtered, 11 years seems a very long time to wait
As a victim of domestic abuse, Stephanie assumed that when she rang for help, the police would rescue her from her perpetrator. Instead, she ended up with a conviction which will stay on her enhanced DBS certificate for 11 years.
Back in 2015, I attended a colleagues surprise 40th birthday party. I didn’t go out that often without my boyfriend and was excited to spend time with good friends and to celebrate with them. There was good wine and lots of interesting dance moves and myself and my good friend continued the night out in town after the party finished. We headed home around 12 and I fell straight to sleep as soon as I got in.
At around 5am I woke to a huge bang on the front door. I went downstairs confused and half asleep. When I opened the door, I was hit with a barrage of aggressive name calling and accusations. It was my boyfriend. I tried to diffuse the situation but was assaulted in an unprovoked attack by someone I trusted, loved and had spent 2 years with. He repeatedly hit me around the head and when I tried to escape, he pulled me back through the door and threw me to the ground. He continued to berate me and smashed my phone. At that point, I knew I had to get out of the house and get as far away as I could. I’d managed to call 999 from my landline and left the line open in the hope that the police were able to hear the shouting and send help.
What was only a few minutes felt like forever; I was so frightened. I didn’t know what he would do next. He went into the kitchen and I took my chance to grab my keys and run. I got into my car and drove. As I turned out of my road, the police drove past me and I manically waved at them trying to let them know it was me who needed help. I was so panicked and confused I continued to drive. Less than a mile from my house I saw blue lights behind me and pulled over. I was shaking and crying, wearing my pyjamas and no shoes.
I can’t begin to explain how surprised I was when instead of asking me about the assault, the police chose to breathalyse me, even though I’d already told them that I would probably be over the limit. I was arrested, taken to the police station and held in a cell for around 6 hours. After having my photograph and fingerprints taken and being interviewed by the police, I no longer felt like a victim of domestic violence but a criminal. The policeman interviewing me told me:
You’ll lose your licence for sure
He gave me very little support in regard to the assault that I’d just gone through. The emphasis was much more about my drink driving. The policeman made me feel as though everything was my fault and I didn’t feel able to press charges against my boyfriend.
Fortunately, I had a good friend who advised me to get a solicitor. This allowed me to get a second hearing for my court case where I was able to argue that there were extenuating circumstances for driving my car whilst still over the limit. I’d never been in trouble with the police before and my driving licence was clean. I was given an absolute discharge as the court agreed that had it not been for my boyfriend assaulting me that day, I would never have driven my car.
My happiness was short lived however when I was made aware that my absolute discharge would still appear on my enhanced DBS certificate.
Nearly four years on, I’ve already had to disclose my criminal record a number of times. Initially to my employer to let them know that my DBS certificate had changed; twice to future employers and soon I’ll be disclosing it again for a volunteering position I want to do. As I work with children and vulnerable young people, I always have an enhanced check so always have to disclose. Every time I feel shame, guilt and anxiety about re-telling the event that led to my criminal record. The thought of having to wait another 7 years until my conviction is filtered makes me feel sad and angry at the system.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act doesn’t class an absolute discharge as a conviction and it becomes spent immediately. However, for filtering purposes it is dealt with as a conviction and will therefore appear on standard and enhanced DBS checks. If Stephanie had been charged with more than one offence and her absolute discharge included two counts, then it would never be eligible for filtering. It’s clear to see from this example why the current filtering system isn’t working and needs changing.
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Employers need to learn how to see the person and not just the crime
Despite achieving considerable success since his release from prison, Jack has found that as the positions he applies for have become more senior, the more likely employers are to do criminal record checks. Sadly he’s found that rather than base their decision on his employment history, the majority of employers can’t see past his criminal record.
My criminal record started when I was 12 years old while growing up in children’s homes. By the age of 18 I had convictions for burglary, assault and had served time in youth detention centres and borstals.
At the age of 20, I was standing in the dock at the Old Bailey receiving a 30-year sentence for armed robbery and attempted murder.
After 20 years in prison, I was released when I was 40 years old. I walked out of prison on a Friday and met a girl two days later. This may sound quick, but I fell totally and utterly in love with her and she turned my life around.
I wanted to be the best I could be for her and go straight. So, aged 40, I got my first EVER job working as a bin man.
My girlfriend and I got married 12 months later and soon after, she gave birth to my beautiful son. With a wife and child to support, I knuckled down and started a career in facilities management. I started at the bottom as an industrial cleaner and within 2 years I’d worked my way up to area manager. I was responsible for 200 staff and 20 sites. From here, I accepted a job overseas and the family and I lived abroad for a while.
Upon our return to the UK, I started applying for senior facilities management jobs and very quickly secured a new position for myself. I’d only been there a couple of days and was going through induction when I was told:
We just need to do your criminal record check
There’d been no mention of this on the application form or during the interview. I knew that I’d have to disclose and did so straight away only to be told that the job offer was going to be revoked.
I was offered another three jobs after this and every time I was told that I’d need a criminal record check. Needless to say, another three job offers were withdrawn. I decided to apply for a supervisory role rather than a senior role and again successfully got through interviews with another two companies. As soon as I disclosed, I was told that the companies were unable to employ me.
I need to support my family and so I now work in the most horrific job imaginable, at a waste recycling plant working 12 hour shifts in 120-degree heat doing back breaking manual work. The work is brain numbing and I feel so depressed and demoralised. I spent over 20 years in prison being punished for my actions and now all I want to do is be a contributing member of society, providing for my wife and child.
I can promise you that I would never ever commit a crime or break the law again as I’d never want to let my wife and son down but, I can see why people do. Prison is meant to rehabilitate you so that when you leave you can lead a law-abiding and industrious life. The problem is that once you disclose your criminal record, very few people are willing to give you the chance you need.
I understand the arguments that are taking place at the moment around minor offences being removed from standard and enhanced DBS checks and I totally support that. However, I feel that the reforms need to go further than that so people with more significant and serious criminal records can also benefit -maybe this is amending the time it takes for convictions to become spent. Perhaps we should just be doing more to educate employers to see the person and not just the crime.
Jack’s story underlines why we’re pushing for further reform to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. As it stands, sentences of over 4 years in prison can never become spent, no matter what positive work people do after release. We believe there should be a point at which people like Jack should no longer have to disclose their criminal record. Before that point, it’s also important that, as the title of this post says, employers see the person not the crime.
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