Case study – Julian – Extra costs and the possible loss of a job because my records didn’t show I’d paid my compensation order

In 2009 Julian was convicted of ABH and received a community order together with a £1,000 compensation order which he paid immediately.

After waiting the 5 years for his conviction to become spent (this was prior to the changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in 2014) Julian applied to Disclosure Scotland (who were responsible for producing basic checks at that time) in April 2014 for a copy of his basic criminal record check; keen to see his blank certificate.

On receipt of the certificate Julian was surprised to see that his conviction from 2009 was still showing. He immediately contacted Disclosure Scotland who told him that he needed to provide them with proof that he had paid the compensation order. Until then, the assumption was that the order was unpaid and Julian’s conviction would remain unspent.

Julian provided the necessary proof and Disclosure Scotland issued a new certificate without any conviction information. They advised Julian that having had proof of payment, his conviction would remain spent on any future basic checks; he wouldn’t need to provide proof of payment again.

In March 2015 Julian applied for another basic check through Disclosure Scotland following the offer of a new job. On receipt of the certificate, the conviction information had once again been disclosed. Julian made a complaint to Disclosure Scotland who quickly established that an error had occurred and a new certificate was issued. Although they maintained that no conviction information had been disclosed to a third party, they accepted that the certificate was inaccurate and had been incorrectly processed.

Julian made a formal complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

The ICO found that in producing the basic criminal record check Disclosure Scotland had breached principles one, three and four of the Data Protection Act, namely:

  • Principle 1 – The processing of personal data must be (a) lawful and (b) fair and transparent.
  • Principle 3 – The processing of personal data must be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which it is processed.
  • Principle 4 – Personal data undergoing processing must be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.

Although details of his conviction were not disclosed to his employer, Julian believes that the situation could have been very different. Having had confirmation from Disclosure Scotland in 2014 that his conviction was spent and having received a copy of his blank certificate, Julian was happy for the certificate he applied for in 2015  to be sent directly to his employer. It was only because he’d followed the employer’s policy and asked for the certificate to be sent to his home address that this had not happened.

Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on improving how the DBS works for people with a criminal record.
  2. We have practical guidance on applying to a court to end a court order.
  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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