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Supreme Court rejects Government appeal on disclosure of past convictions

Prospective employees with past minor criminal convictions may no longer have to disclose them after a Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court rejected three out of four appeals by the Home Office, which had sought to overturn the position that the individuals, who were previously found guilty of lesser criminal offences, were not required to disclose these offences when seeking employment involving contact with children and vulnerable adults.

Under the current system the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) requires minor offences to be disclosed in several circumstances, including where the individual has more than one conviction and in the case of reprimands issued to young offenders. In his judgment Lord Sumption held that the criminal records disclosure was disproportionate in these respects.

The individuals in question had claimed that their past convictions had an unfair effect on their career prospects and infringed their human rights. One had been guilty of stealing a sandwich, one had committed several driving offences including failing to wear a seatbelt and another at 13 years old had been guilty of sexually assaulting two other young boys, these assaults carried out as “dares” in a consensual manner.

The Supreme Court recommended that the Government should consider reform of the present system, which is currently “incapable of indicating a propensity” to reoffend in the future. There is clearly a delicate balance to be struck between the human rights of the individual and the safety of the wider public.

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Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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