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Understanding your Criminal Record

Your criminal record is a list of crimes you have been convicted of in a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court. This information is stored on the Police National Computer (PNC), yet your local police department may also keep their own records. In September 2017, there were over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record and approximately 735,000 people with unspent convictions.

What crimes appear on your criminal record?

It’s true that not every criminal offence is listed on a person’s criminal record. For example, offences such as speeding, careless driving and failing to provide driver information are not be listed in the PNC, however, in most cases, offences that carry a prison sentence will go on record – as set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and the National Police Records (Recordable Offences) Regulations 2000.

Cautions and warnings are often referred to as a “slap on the wrist” but it is important to understand that they too can be part of a person’s criminal record, especially if it relates to a recordable offence. They can then be used in future criminal proceedings as “evidence of character”. Simple cautions become ‘spent’ (cleared, or effectively ignored under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974) immediately at the point of issue.

Disclosing your criminal record to prospective employers

Employers can request a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for an applicant, however, certain roles are eligible for a more detailed check, for example in schools, nurseries and hospitals. Whilst over 300 businesses across the UK are employing ex-offenders, holding a criminal record with unspent convictions can prevent individuals from being employed. In fact, as of December 2010 a third of the 1.2 million total Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claims were made by people who had received at least one caution or conviction between 2000 to 2010 (in England and Wales).

As soon as an employer asks you to disclose unspent convictions on your record, you must. If they ask you and you do not, the job offer could be dismissed, or worse, you may face a further conviction.

When do my listed convictions and cautions become spent?

The length of time varies depending on the “type of disposal administered or the length of the sentence imposed.” For example, if you’re over the age of 18 and have been imprisoned up to 6 months, it will be 7 years until your conviction is spent. If you were not imprisoned but paid a fine or faced a community sentence, you’ll need to wait for 5 years until your conviction becomes spent.

There are many cases where individuals who have criminal records not only find work but truly flourish in various industries. Whilst many areas of personal life can be affected by your criminal record, it’s best to know where you stand and face the challenges head on. So if employment is a major concern, take the time to research employers who are willing to recruit ex-offenders. As a YouGov survey in 2016 highlighted, 38% of employers would consider recruiting offenders and ex-offenders.

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