Thorley Stephenson, Edinburgh Law Firm

Thorley Stephenson SSC is an Edinburgh based law firm providing a wide range of legal services in family, child and criminal court cases throughout Scotland. Tel: 0131 556 9599
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Declaring criminal convictions on job applications may soon become history, according to study

There has been a call to ban the declaration of unspent criminal convictions on job applications following a study carried out by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR). The recent study concluded that potential job applicants appear to be avoiding applying for work on the basis that currently they are required to check a box disclosing their unspent convictions.

While employers are concerned that an offender may compromise either the company itself or the safety of the public, the study revealed that, in fact, those people who had never been convicted of a crime might actually pose a higher risk than those who had. Release Scotland, a network of organisations working with those who hold convictions to help them back into work, supported these findings.

The Director and Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Liz Cameron stated that declarations of this kind offer “little to no insight into how likely a candidate is to reoffend”. This gives employers a false sense of security.

The Associate Director of the SCCJR Dr Beth Weaver, an expert in criminology, pointed out that the average time for a criminal to pose no more of a risk than the average candidate, is between seven to ten years. The SCCJR, however, emphasises that this is also dependent on age, gender and the type of crime committed. Dr Weaver concluded that “giving people a chance to work can improve outcomes for people and contribute to a safer and more just society”.

Number of criminal convictions in Scotland

It is understood that around 38 per cent of British men, and nine per cent of British women have at least one criminal conviction, meaning that the requirement to declare these convictions could be affecting a high number of Scottish residents. Furthermore, instead of protecting the company in question, they may be limiting themselves and their choice of candidates to such an extent that it has a negative impact on the company itself. 

In terms of convictions that are spent, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 prohibits potential employers from requesting this information unless it is relevant to that company’s specialism. This protects those that are considered to no longer pose a risk from discrimination within the workplace.

The national charity “Unlock” who also help offenders back into work has begun encouraging companies to eliminate the tick box element from their initial applications entirely under their “Ban the Box” campaign which will allow offenders to disclose these details at a later stage. Similar campaigns also currently run in the United States. The campaign has already seen success in the UK within some large companies, such a Boots.

Contact our Criminal Defence Lawyers in Edinburgh

Thorley Stephenson SSC's criminal lawyers in Edinburgh aim to provide clients with a personal and professional service, with the best possible legal advice and representation on all criminal law matters. Thorley Stephenson SSC's offices are located close to Edinburgh Sheriff Court and The Court of Session and are easily accessible by all forms of transport. If you need legal advice regarding a criminal charge, speak with one of our qualified criminal lawyers about your case via our online enquiry form.

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