This is the fourth post in a series about European law and policy on criminal records by Professors Jacobs and Larrauri. Prior posts noted that public access is never allowed where a record has been expunged. This post discusses the types of records that are eligible for expungement, how the expungement process works, and what the effect of expungement is. (Professor Larrauri’s more detailed discussion of “judicial rehabilitation” in Europe is available here.) – Eds.
Just as there are variations in eligibility for and consequences of expungement in U.S. states, there are differences in detail in continental European countries. We focus on Spain, which we know best, though we have no reason to believe that Spain is an outlier when it comes to European countries’ law and policy. (As in most all criminal record matters, the U.K. is more like the U.S. than continental Europe, making expunged records more accessible to the public than they are on the Continent.)
To the American eye, Europe seems unconcerned about criminal record-based employment discrimination (CBED). (The U.K. is an exception.) Is this because European employers do not discriminate against job applicants or employees with criminal convictions? If so, is that because European countries prohibit CBED, prevent employers from obtaining individual criminal history information, and/or provide potent remedies to people with convictions who are discriminated against? Or, perhaps European employers believe that CBED is immoral or irrational because past criminal convictions have no value in predicting future conduct on or off the job? Still another hypothesis is that, while Europeans believe that prior convictions are predictive of future dishonesty, dangerousness and unreliability, they also believe that CBED should be prohibited in order to further more important goals like rehabilitation and social harmony. Finally, perhaps employers in Europe do discriminate, but such discrimination has not been revealed through empirical research. While there is no body of research on European CBED comparable to the employer surveys and field studies done in the U.S., there are some generalizations that can be made.