Should Applicants For Work With Children Or Vulnerable Adults Have To Disclose Spent Convictions?

Supreme Court upholds decision that the rules on disclosing multiple spent convictions in an enhanced DBS check are disproportionate and incompatible.

When do spent convictions have to be disclosed?

As a general rule, spent convictions and cautions do not have to be disclosed to a prospective employer. However, if a candidate is seeking work in an "excepted occupation", including roles working with children or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS check will be required and this will list all previous convictions, including in some cases spent convictions.

In 2014 the rules were revised to filter out single convictions for non-violent, non-sexual offences with no custodial or suspended sentence after 11 years (or five and a half years where the offence was committed under the age of 18). A job applicant for a role in an excepted occupation with more than one spent conviction, however, must disclose all spent convictions regardless of the nature of the offence or penalty imposed.

Case: R (on the application of P) v Secretary of State for the Home Department

The joined applications included that of Ms P who has for some time unsuccessfully sought work as a teaching assistant. In 1999, she was convicted of theft for stealing a book worth 99p and of a further offence of failing to appear in court. Because she had more than one spent conviction, each was disclosable in her applications for work with children. She committed these offences when she was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia. Her condition has since been diagnosed and is successfully controlled by medication. She has not offended again. Ms P has been faced with the difficult decision of having to disclose her medical history in order to explain the circumstances of her convictions.

Another applicant, Mrs Gallagher, was convicted in 1996 for two offences: failure to wear a seatbelt while driving and for failing to ensure that her children were wearing theirs. She was convicted once again in 1998 of similar offences. In 2014, she applied for a social work role which required disclosure of multiple spent convictions. Mrs Gallagher disclosed her 1996 convictions. She failed voluntarily to disclose her 1998 convictions but these were disclosed on the enhanced DBS check. Mrs Gallagher's job offer was withdrawn on the basis that she had been dishonest in her application.

The Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that the rule on disclosing multiple spent...

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