The current statutory scheme for checking criminal records requires the blanket disclosure of all spent warnings, convictions and cautions in relation to certain occupations working with children or vulnerable adults, irrespective of the relevance of such information in any particular circumstances. The Court of Appeal has held in R (T and others) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester that this requirement is incompatible with the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Each of the claimants in this case had been prevented from pursuing jobs or courses later in life as a consequence of earlier criminal records being disclosed, and alleged that the current criminal records disclosure scheme is incompatible with the ECHR.
T wanted to do a sports studies course which would involve teaching children. He had received two warnings when he was 11 in relation to two stolen bicycles.
JB applied for a job in the care sector, but an enhanced criminal record certificate disclosed a caution for a minor shoplifting offence committed eight years earlier.
AW was prevented from joining the army due to a conviction for manslaughter received when he was 16 (which would never be spent).
In the case of T and JB, it was held that the current legislative scheme interfered with their rights under Article 8. Whilst the scheme pursued a legitimate aim of protecting children, vulnerable adults and employers, the way it was enacted was disproportionate since it did not seek to control the disclosure of information by reference to whether that information was relevant. By contrast, in AW’s case, the scheme was not disproportionate, since some offences are so serious that they should never be spent.
This judgment will not take effect pending the outcome of the Government’s application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the decision stands, the current disclosure scheme will need to be changed to ensure that information provided to employers about a job applicant’s criminal record is relevant to the job in question.