Reforms to criminal records scheme could help job seekers

The government will have to review the whole criminal records disclosure system for children and young people following a ruling by the Supreme Court earlier this year. Reforms to the system could mean the legal obligations of employers and candidates when disclosing past criminal convictions during the recruitment process could be changed. This would mean people with previous convictions may not be unnecessarily tied to their past by having to disclose the convictions, thus allowing them to move on with their lives.

The judges in the Supreme Court ruling found the way in which criminal records are disclosed to employers was incompatible with human rights, specifically, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to private and family life.

The criminal records disclosure system was seen to be unbalanced in two ways. One is that all previous convictions should be disclosed, no matter how minor, where the person had more than one conviction. The other is with regards to warnings and reprimands issued to young offenders.

There is a call for the government to act promptly to ensure that no child who receives a caution is subsequently stigmatised with a criminal record. A reformed system would therefore mean children who may, for example, undertake a dare that results in a minor crime, will not be faced with the conviction as a barrier to seeking work as an adult if the conviction doesn’t have to be disclosed.

Simon Thomas, partner at Hutchinson Thomas specialising in employment law, said:

“Having a previous criminal conviction can be a substantial obstacle to seeking employment, which can have the knock on effect of limited access to education, a meaningful career and also housing. It is clear that the system needs to be reformed so that those who have made minor mistakes in their youth are not unfairly punished as adults.

“Removal of the multiple convictions rule and development of a system that specifically addresses disclosing criminal records attained during childhood, for example, could make for a more just system that doesn’t put outdated and minor convictions in the way of people leading better lives.”

For more information, contact Simon Thomas on 01639 640164 or email