Scotland harshest on disclosing convictions

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SCOTLAND imposes harsherdemands on ex-offenders to disclose their convictions to employers than any other European country, a law professor has told the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

At a presentation in Edinburgh, Elena Larrauri, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, said such disclosures “lead to discrimination” by employers.

She said: “Lack of skills and education plus the economic crisis all make it difficult for many people to get jobs but if you add a criminal record it becomes impossible.”

Until this year, all of the UK was bound by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. But in April the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2012 reduced the period of time after sentence that disclosures were required, but in England and Wales only. The 2012 Act reduced periods of disclosures, for example, from ten down to four years for sentences of between six and 30 months.

In Spain, disclosures are required only for jobs in the public sector and all convictions are considered spent after five years. Other continental European countries have similar rules.

The existence of a criminal record has to be made clear on job application forms. In the UK, two thirds of employers in the private sector go as far as carrying out criminal record checks.

Prof Larrauri said: “In the UK, people are more likely to agree that employers have the right to ask about criminal records. In Europe we would say no. These matters are confidential.”

The SCCJR along with the Howard League of Penal Reform Scotland is pressing for reforms to the 1974 Act in Scotland.

Director John Scott QC said: “We don’t deal well with information like convictions. It means lip service is being paid to the idea of reintegration and rehabilitation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are looking at the Westminster reforms and considering their implications for Scotland.”