On January 30, 2019, the UK Supreme Court issued a significant decision largely upholding the UK’s categorical rules for when criminal records are disclosed to employers, but declaring two key rules incompatible with privacy rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The first rule in question, the so-called multiple conviction rule, automatically requires people who have more than one conviction to disclose all prior convictions on “standard” and “enhanced” records checks. (As explained below, the UK disclosure scheme provides for three levels of checks, depending on the nature of the employment involved, the two specified being the more in-depth.) The second rule requires that certain youth reprimands and warnings—administered without an admission or determination of criminal charges—be disclosed on both types of checks. CCRC contributor Alessandro Corda posted about this case this past July when it was being considered by the court and Christopher Stacey, co-director of a charity organization that intervened in the case, who attended the three days of hearings, provided guest commentary.
The decision has significant implications for the employability of people with criminal records in the UK and could offer policy lessons for the US. It is therefore worth discussing in some detail.