Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 job applicants do not have to disclose spent convictions, cautions or warnings. But there are exceptions to this for certain occupations, such as working with children or vulnerable adults.
One of the applicants in R v Secretary of State for the Home Department had, at the age of 11, received two police warnings for bicycle theft. These were disclosed when he applied for a job that required an enhanced criminal record certificate and, as a result, his application was rejected. The other applicant received a caution for shoplifting as an adult and failed to get a job in the care sector when this was disclosed. They claimed that their right to respect for private life under the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached in a way that went further than was necessary. The Court of Appeal upheld their claim.
The Government made changes to the regime to comply with the Court of Appeal's ruling but also appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now upheld the Court of Appeal's decision that a scheme requiring the blanket disclosure of all convictions and cautions was a disproportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
There may still be a question as to whether the Government's changes went far enough – although they relaxed the rules in relation to the passage of time and seriousness of the offence, there is an argument that they did not fully address the issue of the relevance of the offence to the job application.