Supreme Court rules minor offences can be kept from employers after Manchester man’s childhood theft case

A Manchester man has set a new precedent stopping minor offences being revealed in employer criminal record checks, the Supreme Court has ruled.

One of two cases that caused the change in the law involved a man known as T who was forced to reveal two police cautions he received from Greater Manchester Police at the age of 11 in connection with two stolen bikes.

Details of his past offences were revealed when he applied for a part-time job at a football club, aged 17, and when he enrolled in a university course in sports studies.

And judges at the Supreme Court today concluded that the requirement to disclose certain offences would be incompatible with human rights legislation in England and Wales.

James Welch, Legal Director for the Human Rights group Liberty, who supported T’s case, said: “Finally, an injection of proportionality into our criminal records system. Rules which allowed for blanket disclosure left no room for common sense and let irrelevant and unreliable information ruin lives.

“Of course, appropriate checks must be made but today’s judgment moves us towards a system that strikes a balance between protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that people with minor convictions can put their pasts behind them.”

Another case involved a woman, identified only as ‘JB’, who also challenged the checks after she was refused a job in a care home eight years after she received a caution for shoplifting.

Making their ruling, the Supreme Court judges said the disclosures T and JB had been required to prove they ‘were not necessary in a democratic society’ and ‘were not based on any rational assessment of risk’.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 indicates that, after a period of time, a person’s criminal convictions are lapsed, therefore, they no longer have to be shown to prospective employers. A caution, on the other hand, is spent as soon as it’s given.

A year before T’s successful Court of Appeal case, certain jobs, including roles that involved working children and the vulnerable, required that all convictions and cautions which would otherwise be spent had to be disclosed to employees.

Today’s ruling, combined with the filtering system introduced by the Home Office now means that those minor convictions and cautions will be ignored and will remain part of a ‘protected’ private life and will not influence a person’s job application.

Chief Legal Officer for the Equality and Human Rights Commission Rebecca Hilsenrath also welcomed the ruling and said: “This judgment sensibly recognises, as did the Court of Appeal, that people should not be haunted forever by minor childhood offences, in a way which might prevent them from becoming productive members of society and from engaging in their chosen field of employment.

“A warning given for a relatively trivial offence committed many years ago by a child, who has not reoffended, has no relevance to how that person could be safely employed to work as an adult.”

Image courtesy of ssalonso with thanks

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