convicted criminals

There has been a great deal of controversy following the reported plans of Sheffield United to re-sign Ched Evans following his release from prison, after being convicted of rape. This presents a question as to how employers deal with prospective employees who have criminal convictions.

There is no absolute prohibition on an employer employing a person with a criminal conviction. The law attempts to maintain a balance between rehabilitating people with criminal records and recognising there is an overriding need for disclosure in certain situations and in order to protect certain groups.

Here are some key facts:

  • Certain convictions are “spent” after the person has not reoffended for a specified period, of up to seven years, after the end of the sentence which has been imposed.
  • Once spent, the person is considered rehabilitated and is treated as if they had never committed the offence. As a result, the conviction in question does not need to be disclosed by the person when applying for most jobs.
  • It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to employ a person, or dismiss an existing employee, because the individual has a spent conviction.
  • Convictions resulting in a prison sentence of more than four years will never become spent. Ched Evans is likely to fall within this category, as it is reported that he received a prison sentence of more than four years.
  • An employer can ask a person to disclose unspent convictions and take these into account when deciding whether to employ them. An employer ultimately has discretion over whether to employ such an individual, and the following factors could be taken into account:
    • whether the conviction is relevant to the position;
    • the seriousness of the offence;
    • the length of time since the offence was committed;
    • whether there is a pattern of offending;
    • the circumstances surrounding the offence and the explanation of the individual.
  • There are certain exceptions where a person may be asked to disclose their conviction, even where it is spent. These exceptions relate to sensitive areas such as work with children or other people in vulnerable circumstances.

Click here if you wish to hear Giles Woolfson on Radio Scotland speaking on this issue with Darren Adam (scroll to 46 minutes): Radio Scotland

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