Changing the way people with convictions are viewed by the law

Published: 28 Apr 2015

Changing the way people with convictions are viewed by the law

The UK should introduce measures that allow all people with convictions to be potentially regarded as legally ‘rehabilitated’, and therefore not have to disclose their record to employers, according to a report published today.

Christopher Stacey, Director of Unlock (a charity for people with convictions), has put forward the proposal as part of a series of recommendations he’s made as a result of research carried out with the support of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship.

As part of the research, Christopher visited France, Spain and Sweden, where he looked at how the countries deal with criminal records, particularly in disclosing them for employment purposes. In Rehabilitation & Desistance vs Disclosure, Christopher reports on two main areas for each countries – who has access to criminal records and how they’re used, and what systems the country has in place to protect or expunge records to minimise the collateral consequences of a criminal record.

“There was much greater faith and confidence that people rehabilitate, and so there’s little need for them to have to disclose their record. This results in more progressive ‘expungement’ policies which allow people with convictions to be protected from the potential prejudice and stigma that they might otherwise face. The majority of employers in these countries didn’t use criminal record checks, recognising the shortfalls of them as a recruitment tool,” says Christopher.

In his report, Christopher outlines a number of recommendations for the UK, including:

  1. Employers should only consider asking for details of criminal record when they ‘can forsee hiring’ an individual, and not asking on application forms.
  2. A general prohibition against criminal record checks for recruitment. Exceptions would be granted on a case-by-case basis, where it was deemed (a) lawful and (b) necessary.
  3. Individuals being able to obtain a copy of what they might have to reveal to a future employer.
  4. Research needed into the effectiveness of criminal record checks and what value they provide to employers that use them.
  5. Exploring the use of ‘occupational disqualifications’ as a means of regulating who can work in certain roles, allowing for more restricted access to criminal records in other roles and more expansive ‘cancelling’ systems.
  6. Establishing an ‘ultimate’ form of rehabilitation which applies for all types of disclosures.

Christopher plans to feed these recommendations into his work with Unlock, challenging employment discrimination at a policy level with employers and Government. 

Contact Christopher - christopher.stacey@unlock.org.uk