Thousands of people with criminal records will no longer have to declare minor convictions to employers under new laws that wipe “spent” convictions and cautions from their records.
The Government is to scrap a rule where anyone with more than one conviction, no matter how minor, is required to disclose them to a prospective employer for the rest of their lives.
Ministers are also ditching a similar requirement for youth cautions, reprimands and warnings for assaults, thefts or criminal damage that have had to be declared for jobs.
The new plan would mean thefts, drug offences and some assaults would not automatically be disclosed to employers through the Government’s disclosure and barring service (DBS).
Campaigners welcomed the move as offering juvenile offenders the chance to escape criminality and be given a second chance while victims’ groups expressed concern that employers should be free to decide based on full disclosure.
Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said: “By making these adjustments we will ensure that vulnerable people are protected from dangerous offenders while those who have turned their lives around or live with the stigma of convictions from their youth are not held back.”
The change follows a supreme court judgement that the multiple conviction and youth caution rules were “disproportionate” and a breach of individuals’ human rights.
For people with criminal records, it will mean that offences like theft will no longer have to be disclosed through a DBS check once they become “spent,” which for adults is 11 years after the offence and 5.5 years for a youth caution.
More serious crimes involving violence, sex attacks and robbery are excluded from the rule change and will continue to be included on DBS checks through the offenders’ lifetime, as will any offence that involves a prison sentence, suspended or otherwise.
It means that someone who may have been a serial shoplifter would no longer have to declare convictions under an employer DBS check, provided they had not been jailed.
There are more than four million jobs that involve DBS “standard” or “enhanced” checks, primarily involving those with contact with children like youth workers or teachers.
Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, a national charity for people with criminal records, welcomed the move
“The changes announced today are a crucial first step towards achieving a fair system that takes a more balanced approach towards disclosing criminal records,” he said.
“However, we are still left with a criminal records system where many people with old and minor criminal records are shut out of jobs that they are qualified to do.
“The Government’s plan for jobs should include a wider review of the criminal records disclosure system to ensure all law-abiding people with criminal records are able to move on into employment and contribute to our economic recovery.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of Just for Kids Law, said: “This legislation is long overdue and we are pleased the government has finally taken action to implement the Supreme Court judgement.
“Every year about 25,000 youth cautions issued to children – the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist – are disclosed in criminal record checks, most of which are for incidents that happened over 5 years ago.”