Case of Amir

Amir applied for a job in the training department of one of the big four accounting firms. After a telephone interview, assessment centre and face-to-face interview Amir was selected over the 18 other candidates. He was overjoyed, as he had worked hard over the last 12 years to build the skills and qualifications needed for a job with a prestigious company.

When he was 17 Amir was convicted, along with a group of other young men, for a serious assault on a man. Amir hadn’t actually hurt the man but was part of the group. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison and, when he was released after three years, he moved with his family to a new area to make a fresh start. Amir enrolled in college and completed qualifications in business and IT. He ran a small business from home doing computer repairs and providing training.

After he received the firm’s offer, Amir disclosed that he had an unspent conviction for a violent offence. Initially he was told that, as the offence wasn’t relevant, the offer would progress. Weeks passed and Amir heard nothing. His requests for an update were ignored and there was no written policy on employing people with criminal records. After three months of waiting patiently, Amir contacted the UK Director of HR who said the company had a policy of not employing anyone with an unspent conviction. She couldn’t explain why and wasn’t sure why Amir had been left waiting for so long.

Amir said:

I was so proud when I was offered the job and I thought what a great example I could be to others like me – yes, I went to prison but I worked hard and turned my life around. It seems like I’ll never be allowed that chance though, my conviction will never be spent, I’ll have to tell employers about it forever. I’ve got nearly 40 years of working life ahead of me – when will I get the chance to move on?

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

Like so many others convicted in young adulthood, Amir has done everything possible to show he was rehabilitated – but the law won’t let him move on. Do we want a society that anchors young people to their past?

Lessons from this case

Unlock has long campaigned for fundamental changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), the legislation that governs the disclosure of criminal records to employers, educational institutions, insurers and housing providers. Changes implemented in 2014 (through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012) focused mainly on reducing rehabilitation periods.

More than 8000 people a year receive a sentence of more than four years. As the law stands, these can never become spent meaning people will have to declare them for the rest of their life – on job applications, for housing or insurance. An unspent conviction is a lifelong barrier to moving on.

The employer in this case is not signed up to ban the box even though they don’t ask about criminal records on application. If they had been signed up they might have handled Amir’s disclosure more effectively. Employers should have a written policy on recruiting people with criminal records and be clear with applicants what will happen to information that is disclosed. Failing to do so is likely to be in breach of the GDPR.

 

Notes about this case

  1. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
  2. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on employment and ROA reform
  3. Other policy cases are listed here.
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