Offenders will have minor crimes wiped from records to boost job prospects

Offenders guilty of minor crimes will have them wiped from their records under changes announced by the Home Office to stop them being denied jobs by "spent" convictions.

Officials told campaigners this week that a rule will be scrapped under which anyone with more than one conviction, no matter how minor, automatically has them disclosed to a prospective employer for the rest of their lives.

The change, to come into effect on November 28, will mean minor assaults, thefts or drug possession would not automatically be revealed to employers by the Government disclosure and barring service. A requirement for any childhood cautions or reprimands to be revealed will also be scrapped.

It is estimated that the move could free some 45,000 people with minor convictions or childhood cautions from disclosure in "standard" checks for jobs in professions such as law and "enhanced" alerts for posts involving work with children or vulnerable adults such as teaching, social or youth work.

It follows a law commission inquiry which called for a wide-ranging review and a Supreme Court judgment that described the rules on minor offences as "disproportionate".

Campaigners who took the Government to court said it was unfair to deny juvenile offenders who wanted to escape criminality a second chance and prevent eminently qualified people with old and minor offences from getting a job, but some campaigners for victims’rights said employers should be entitled to full disclosure and warned that the move could put the public at risk.

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."

Under the current rules, convictions for more than one minor offence including common assault (without injury), theft (without violence), drug possession, motoring offences and being drunk and disorderly have to be disclosed to prospective employers for the rest of their lives.

In its case for a change in the law, Unlock, a charity that campaigns for reform, cited the case of a 30-year-old woman who had two convictions for stealing a 99p book and failing to turn up to court and could then not get a job as a teacher.

Other more serious offences will be unaffected by the judgment and will not be able to be "filtered" or become "spent" for standard and enhanced checks. These include assault causing bodily harm, safeguarding and sexual offences, supplying drugs and robbery as well as any involving a suspended jail term or prison sentence.

Christopher Stacey, the co-director of Unlock, said: "For people who have been held back from employment and volunteering to help others because of mistakes they made years ago, the impact will be life-changing. The changes coming in on 28 November are a crucial first step towards achieving a fair system that takes a more balanced approach towards disclosing criminal records." 

However, a victims’ campaigner warned: "A potential employer may well decide to disregard an isolated case of shoplifting when a candidate was 14, but it is right that this group of employers should be given full information. If it is withheld from them, they can’t fully protect their clients." 

About 4.25 million enhanced and standard checks are conducted every year. Other employers are only covered by basic level checks, which means prospective employees do not have to disclose even prison sentences after a specified period when they become "spent".

The Ministry of Justice’s white paper on sentencing has proposed reducing the time in which they are required to disclose certain convictions for non-sensitive roles.  

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