Case study – Misleading question on television production company application form

We were recently contacted by an individual who was confused by the terms and conditions of a television company’s application form which he was in the process of completing. The application form stated:

 

You must disclose to the Producer details of any criminal convictions and/or unspent convictions other than driving offences which have not resulted in a ban or more serious sentence. You shall notify the Producer immediately if there are any criminal charges brought against you or if any information you provide in your application becomes inaccurate between now and the first transmission of the programme.

 

As a result of the question, the individual was unsure whether he should disclose his spent conviction.

We contacted the television production company to raise our concerns about the misleading question. Although it made reference to “unspent” convictions, it also asked that applicants disclose details of “any criminal convictions”. As no reference was made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, then potentially an applicant could over-disclose their criminal record providing more information than the television company would legally be allowed to have.

After some time had passed, we had not received a response from the company, so we raised the issue with the ICO. We later received an email from the ICO stating they had written to the company to strongly recommend that it reviews its terms and conditions and removes any ambiguities, to make it clear that applicants do not have to disclose details of convictions that are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

The company promptly got in touch with us, apologising for the delay in replying, thanking us for drawing their attention to the misleading question and confirming that they had now amended their application form to state:

 

You must disclose to the Producer details of any unspent convictions other than driving offences which have not resulted in a ban or more serious sentence. You shall notify the Producer immediately if there are any unspent criminal charges brought against you or if any information you provide in your application becomes inaccurate between now and the date of first transmission of the programme.

 

We are looking to engage further with the television production company to assist them with their criminal record checking policy.

Lessons

This case shows how organisations can believe that they are asking the correct question, but instead mislead people to disclose information that they are not legally entitled to hold under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Links

Notes about this case study

This case study relates to our work with other organisations.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

 

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