10:13, January 30 212 0 theguardian.com

2020-01-30 10:13:03
Criminal record checks system still broken, say campaigners

Legal rights campaign groups have described as a “disgrace” the government’s delay in reforming the criminal record checks system.

People with minor convictions and cautions must still disclose their criminal records to some prospective employers, a year after the Home Office lost a legal challenge over the system.

In the supreme court ruling on 30 January 2019, Lord Sumption said the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) rules were disproportionate because they required disclosure for multiple offences, even if they were minor, and failed to distinguish between warnings or reprimands given to juveniles and convictions.

The government has yet to make alterations to the system. Sam Grant, the policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: “It is a disgrace that after years of failed wrangling in the courts, the government continues to drag its feet and refuses to fix a clearly broken system.

“A blunt bureaucratic system continues to subject people to unfair treatment for mistakes they made long ago. If you make a few mistakes, you should be able to move on without it tarnishing you for the rest of your life.”

Three of four appeals by the Home Office were rejected over the issue of whether people found guilty of lesser offences or given cautions needed to disclose them when seeking employment involving contact with children or vulnerable adults.

The criminal record checks system requires past offences to be revealed in circumstances where the conviction or caution is serious, where it is current and not deemed to have been spent under the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, where it resulted in a custodial sentence or where someone has more than one conviction.

“P”, one of the applicants who originally brought the claims against the Home Office, was convicted of two minor offences – for stealing a 99p book and then failing to turn up to her hearing at a magistrates court – while suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness in 1999.

She said: “I am still waiting for the government to change a law that has been declared unlawful, simply so I can work in my chosen occupation. The victory last year feels hollow when I am still unable to apply for jobs without having to reveal personal and highly sensitive information that is wholly irrelevant to my ability to do the job.

“This is not just about me. There are thousands of people affected by this unjust inaction by the government, who now desperately want to get on with their lives and deserve to. The government has effectively ignored us, as well as its obligations.”

A government spokesperson said: “We continue to consider the supreme court judgment and wider recommendations around changes to criminal record disclosure. Public safety is our first priority and the system needs to protect the public, while also giving offenders a chance to rehabilitate.”