Case of Hilary – Reliving old convictions stops people from pursuing their dreams

When she was 19, Hilary was found guilty of possession of a prohibited weapon and prohibited ammunition after her then boyfriend forced her to hide them in her handbag as they travelled in a car together and were pulled over by the police. When the case went to court, she received a 2 year conditional discharge.

At the time of going to court, Hilary had been studying for a law degree but believed that as a result of her criminal record she would find it difficult to convince the Law Society that she would be a suitable candidate to enter the legal profession.

After eight years of moving from one mediocre job to another, Hilary took a short course in counselling skills and realised that she wanted to undertake further study in this field. However, she was worried that she could potentially be wasting time, effort and money if her conditional discharge meant that she would never be allowed to practise.

Another ten years passed before the filtering provisions were introduced in May 2013. Hilary believed that her conditional discharge would be eligible for filtering and contacted the Disclosure and Barring Service to find out whether she needed to make a request in writing. The DBS explained that although her offence was likely to be eligible for filtering, and although it resulted in a conditional discharge and not a conviction, this would be treated as multiple offences. They also confirmed that conditional discharges were treated as convictions for the purposes of filtering, so they wouldn’t be filtered.

Hilary stated:

“I continue to study but I do worry that I may just be wasting my time and will be left disappointed again. There are job opportunities that I just allow to pass me by without even trying because of my belief that I will be judged and discriminated against. I hate having to relive my conviction every time I attend a job interview. I really wish the filtering system could be reformed to allow people like me the chance to move on from their past and not be haunted by it every time the opportunity to pursue a dream job comes up”.

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

“This incident was nearly 20 years ago now. That she was charged with two offences for one set of behaviour should not stop it from being filtered. A conditional discharge is not a criminal conviction, and so it should be treated differently. The fact that these offences still appear on her enhanced DBS shows the filtering system is in desperate need for reform”.

 

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 disclosing criminal records to an employer.
  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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