Case of Diana – Disclosure of convictions from 25 years ago threaten chances of fostering

Whilst she was still at school, Diana was convicted of seven counts of theft from the school changing room and was sentenced to a 12 months conditional discharge and fines ranging from £1 to £14. Up until then, her childhood had been very chaotic having been taken into local authority care following regular abuse and neglect at the hands of her father. Desperate to make friends and fit in at school, Diana had committed her offences as a result of bullying and peer pressure.

She was told by her solicitor that, as she was a juvenile at the time of her convictions, she wouldn’t need to disclose them to anybody providing she did not re-offend. She was never made aware of any exceptions and for that reason, hadn’t declared it for 25 years.

Diana was eventually fostered by a wonderful couple and began to turn her life around. She gained two degrees and worked very successfully with elderly people in the care industry and schools. The only time she was asked to disclose her criminal record was when applying for a personal licence to manage a nightclub – although the police later told her that as her convictions were spent, she hadn’t need to tell them.

Now married with two children, Diana recently applied to do some voluntary work at her children’s school. She agreed to an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check but was devastated to see that all seven of her convictions had been disclosed on it. Worried about how this would be viewed by the school, Diana withdrew her application.

At around the same time Diana and her husband had started the process of fostering and although they knew that the fostering agency would need to do a criminal record check, Diana had been unaware of the information that would be disclosed about her. She started to research the filtering legislation that had come into force in May 2013 and realised that although a theft offence would be eligible for filtering, the fact that she had seven convictions (one for each of the seven items she had stolen) meant that hers would not be.

Diana now believes that the presence of these convictions on her criminal record check is likely to close the door to any chance of her being a foster carer.

Diana stated:

“The current system does not take into account a person’s past or circumstances which led to their offending as a child – as a child we are all guilty of making mistakes, it’s part of the learning curve. Why make a definition between a juvenile and an adult in law if we are making a juvenile criminally responsible and liable for the whole of their lives. I can’t sleep, I feel so sick. I wake up crying and thinking about it, I’m totally ashamed and embarrassed about my past and having to relive something I thought I’d buried 25 years ago”.

Commenting on Diana’s experience, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“This shows how the current DBS filtering system, which only applies to single convictions, is a blunt instrument. The very fact that Diana’s minor theft offences are now more than 25 years old show that they are clearly no longer relevant for any kind of employment, volunteering or fostering. It provides a striking example of why the filtering regime needs to change”.

 

Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on challenging the DBS ‘filtering’ process.
  2. We have practical guidance on fostering.
  3. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
  4. Other policy cases are listed here.
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