There\’s a solution to this you know

In Britain, even the most minor convictions for student pranks or breaches of the peace can come back to haunt jobseekers years later if they apply for positions as teachers, policemen or other “sensitive” roles.

But migrants from EU countries applying for the same jobs will be given a clean bill of health, even if they have similar convictions, because other countries either wipe the slate clean or do not keep records of low-level offences.

We should treat spent convictions as being, well, you know, spent?

It\’s our own authoritarian fuckwittery which is the problem here.

12 comments on “There\’s a solution to this you know

  1. A question of believing that people deserve a second chance and can put past misdeeds behind them rather than thinking, ‘Oh yeah, didn’t he have a poo in the wash house sink in 1972? Let’s tell the Daily Mail, and maybe get a few quid’. I am afraid we nation of sneaks and sneerers as well as authoritarian fuckwits. And while I’m on, Tim, is it not the case that an e-mail surveillance system – Echelon – already exists? Could someone explain why another is needed, please.

  2. Tim, do you think employers should be allowed to ask about past criminal convictions, and use that information when making hiring decisions?

  3. do you think employers should be allowed to ask about past criminal convictions, and use that information when making hiring decisions?

    Dunno about Tim, but, yes, I do. But not always and for ever. Hence why we have the concept of “spent convictions”. There is also the insane “but we might be sued” stupidity of insisting on a clean, rather than a clean of relevant criminality, Enhanced CRB return.

    Let’s be honest – what impact is an SP30 at 17 likely to have on somebody’s ability as a teacher or even a cop? Or as an accountant?

    And while I’m on, Tim, is it not the case that an e-mail surveillance system – Echelon – already exists?

    Access and admissibility.

  4. Most other countries only arrest for serious crimes too, i.e. not for calling a police horse “gay” or being nasty to somebody on Facebook. No wonder foreigners look squeaky clean by comparison when New Labour made criminals of us all.

  5. Would you apply this to private sources of information about past convictions?

    Yes. There is a difference between the case you cite, which is about secrecy – and I agree with you – and whether an employer is allowed to take that in to account.

    We should always approach free speech on the basis that censorship is a de facto wrong, therefore any censorship must be justified by a more damaging wrong that would occur if the free speech is allowed. Records should be allowed to stand. Even if, in my opinion and for example, the conviction was overturned. Although a right of insisting on correction (i.e. adding “The conviction was quashed on Jan 2013.”) is reasonable.

    BTW – a murder conviction will never be spent in the UK. Anything over 30 months (sentence – not time served) will, currently, never spend.

  6. Anecdata – I’ve not offered somebody a job because I sort of remembered their name. Googled it and up came the BBC News web-page reporting the judge describing them as “a menace to society” when sentencing them. Quick check that it was the same person and, lo and behold, that one never got to interview.

    And, no, I know I’m not a nice person.

  7. Ed, in England a murder conviction is never spent. ‘We’ have decided it is so abhorrent that the record must never be ‘wiped’. Rightly or wrongly, sentences over 30 months are never spent. We are talking about convictions involving sentences of up to 30 months.

    Should someone be able to ‘censor’ a private source of information about such convictions? I don’t know. But should (in general) an employer be free to discriminate on the grounds of a conviction that has been spent? I will err on the side that he shouldn’t, that the employee should be able to claim unfair dismissal if he can show that was the reason for his dismissal.

    There is some weighing up to do here; we want to reduce recidivism but at the same time a lot of employers aren’t prepared to give a job to a person with a conviction even though it’s spent.

  8. …and how long should a person be ‘punished’ for a minor offence?

    A particularly difficult question.

    You can go for the absolutist position and say that as soon as their legal punishment finishes, we should let them crack back on. Or you can take the view that the offence might be relevant to the job (as it was in my example at #7.) (Or you can take the view that damnation is eternal and their criminal mind will always be seeking another victim. Floggings too good for ’em, I say. Bring back the noose! {wipes blood-drenched foam from mouth and gets back tot the Daily Hate.})

    If the guy had committed a traffic offence or even if he’d got in to a drunken fight, say, I wouldn’t have reacted the way I did (although our HR department would probably have gone ape-shit).

    But, it was relevant, wasn’t spent, and he’d lied on the application form. Oh, and his previous employers, who had sacked him when somebody else pointed his past out to them, lied on their reference for him.

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