UK: Should Applicants For Work With Children Or Vulnerable Adults Have To Disclose Spent Convictions?

Last Updated: 11 February 2019
Article by Alacoque Marvin

Supreme Court upholds decision that the rules on disclosing multiple spent convictions in an enhanced DBS check are disproportionate and incompatible.

When do spent convictions have to be disclosed?

As a general rule, spent convictions and cautions do not have to be disclosed to a prospective employer. However, if a candidate is seeking work in an "excepted occupation", including roles working with children or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS check will be required and this will list all previous convictions, including in some cases spent convictions.

In 2014 the rules were revised to filter out single convictions for non-violent, non-sexual offences with no custodial or suspended sentence after 11 years (or five and a half years where the offence was committed under the age of 18). A job applicant for a role in an excepted occupation with more than one spent conviction, however, must disclose all spent convictions regardless of the nature of the offence or penalty imposed.

Case: R (on the application of P) v Secretary of State for the Home Department

The joined applications included that of Ms P who has for some time unsuccessfully sought work as a teaching assistant. In 1999, she was convicted of theft for stealing a book worth 99p and of a further offence of failing to appear in court.  Because she had more than one spent conviction, each was disclosable in her applications for work with children. She committed these offences when she was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia. Her condition has since been diagnosed and is successfully controlled by medication. She has not offended again. Ms P has been faced with the difficult decision of having to disclose her medical history in order to explain the circumstances of her convictions.

Another applicant, Mrs Gallagher, was convicted in 1996 for two offences: failure to wear a seatbelt while driving and for failing to ensure that her children were wearing theirs. She was convicted once again in 1998 of similar offences. In 2014, she applied for a social work role which required disclosure of multiple spent convictions. Mrs Gallagher disclosed her 1996 convictions. She failed voluntarily to disclose her 1998 convictions but these were disclosed on the enhanced DBS check. Mrs Gallagher's job offer was withdrawn on the basis that she had been dishonest in her application.

The Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that the rule on disclosing multiple spent convictions is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). A public authority can only interfere with the right to respect for privacy under Article 8 of the Convention if that interference is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society (for example to protect public safety, to prevent crime and for the protection of health or morals). The judges noted that the disclosure rules apply no matter the nature of the offences, their similarity to each other, the number of occasions involved, or the intervals of time separating them. They decided that this interference with the right to privacy could not be regarded as a necessary or proportionate means of informing employers about the likelihood of an applicant offending in the future.

The Supreme Court also determined that the rules are disproportionate in the way they deal with warnings and reprimands given to young offenders. The judges commented that such warnings should have a wholly instructive purpose and that their use as an alternative to prosecution was designed to avoid unnecessarily blighting a young offender's later life and career. They held that having to disclose such warnings to an employer is inconsistent with this purpose.


Where legislative rules are declared incompatible with the Convention, the rules continue in force, but the matter will go back to the Government to reconsider the rules. It is therefore likely that changes will be made in the future to the rules on disclosing multiple spent convictions and cautions received during childhood.

Employers who work with children and vulnerable adults will be well aware of the safer recruitment rules. However, it is important that applicants are not rejected because of a criminal record without considering the particular risks of employment. Employers should carefully consider: whether the conviction is relevant to the position applied for; the seriousness of the offence; the length of time since the offence was committed; whether there is a pattern of offending; whether the applicant's circumstances have changed since the offending behaviour took place; and any explanation offered by the applicant.

The Government has stated that it is committed to continued membership of the Convention and individuals will continue to be able to take cases to the European Court of Human Rights, even after a "no deal" exit from the EU. However, there remains some uncertainty over the way human rights cases will be dealt with in UK courts in the future. The Government has suggested that it will replace the UK Human Rights Act 1998 with a UK Bill of Rights, but it has postponed any such major change to constitutional legislation while the Brexit process is underway.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions