Criminal record checks to be relaxed

Image caption,
Civil liberties groups are expected to welcome the judgement

Thousands of job applicants will no longer have to face their criminal past being disclosed to employers, under changes announced by the Home Office.

Old and minor cautions and convictions will be filtered out of the information revealed in applications for jobs in England and Wales.

It follows a Court of Appeal ruling in January that blanket checks did not comply with human rights laws.

All serious violent and sexual offences will continue to be disclosed.

Under the proposed legislation, convictions resulting in a non-custodial sentence will be filtered from record checks after 11 years for adults and five and a half years for young offenders.

Cautions will be filtered from record checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau, after six years for adults and two years for young offenders.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Minister for Criminal Information, said: "The protection of children and vulnerable groups is of paramount importance to this government.

"Criminal records checks are an important tool for employers to use in making informed safeguarding decisions.

"This new system of checks strikes a balance between ensuring that children and vulnerable groups are protected and avoiding intrusion into people's lives."

Protect children

The Home Office said the system would be implemented within weeks, following Parliamentary scrutiny.

In 2011-12, more than four million people applied for a criminal records check.

The changes follow a Court of Appeal hearing concerning a job applicant, known as T, who had to disclose police cautions he had received at the age of 11 over two stolen bicycles when he applied for a part-time job at a football club.

Image caption,
Tougher criminal checks were brought in after mistakes were made with child murderer Ian Huntley

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said the disclosure of old convictions and cautions was designed to protect children and vulnerable adults.

However, he said, "requiring the disclosure of all convictions and cautions relating to recordable offences is disproportionate to that legitimate aim".

Criminal record checks were beefed up after the case of Ian Huntley, who was jailed for life in 2003 for the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

It subsequently emerged that Huntley had been able to obtain a job as a school caretaker - which is how he befriended Holly and Jessica - because his criminal past had not been shared by Humberside Police.

In 2004 the Bichard Report into the case recommended that all applications for positions in schools should be subject to a requirement for enhanced disclosure criminal checks.

A Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (ECRC) is usually sought in cases where people are applying for work that includes training, caring for or supervising children or vulnerable adults.

But they are also required for prospective adopters of children in England and Wales and in a variety of other instances, which are listed here on the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) website.

A different agency, Disclosure Scotland, handles such criminal record checks north of the border, and Access Northern Ireland is in charge of disclosure checks in Northern Ireland.