The current DBS check system is “unlawful” and incompatible with the Human Rights Act, according to the High Court.

Single convictions for non-violent, non-sexual offences with no sentence do not need to be disclosed once 11 years has passed, or 5.5 years where the person committed the offence when they were under 18.

However, full disclosure must still be made where a person has more than one conviction, regardless of how minor. The High Court indicated that the number of minor offences should not affect the non-disclosure status of minor offences, and that it was unnecessary to have to disclose these offences –for example, two convictions for shoplifting as a child – indefinitely. This practice can potentially discount many skilled and qualified job applicants from gaining employment.

Christopher Stacey, the co-director of Unlock, a charity that supports people with criminal records said: “Since the filtering scheme was introduced in 2013, it has helped many people with old and minor criminal records to be free of the stigma and discrimination that so many face when they have something on their criminal record.

“However, the current system doesn’t go far enough: it is blunt, restrictive and disproportionate.

“These shortcomings have today been recognised by the High Court and we are excited about the improvements which will follow. They will not only benefit those with convictions to move on positively with their lives but it will also contribute towards building a fairer and more inclusive society.”

The system will, for now, continue to operate as normal. Employers should continue to make judgement calls on whether a job applicant, from the information provided on a DBS check, would be suitable for a role.

What does this mean for me?

  • You should not change your recruitment practices in terms of obtaining DBS checks for appropriate job roles as you would normally have done
  • Where minor convictions are shown, consider whether it really makes someone unsuitable for the role.
  • We will keep you informed if there are any changes to the criminal records check system.