Many aspects of our everyday life have been enormously disrupted over the last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some trials are being pushed back until 2023 or even later, over concerns about having courtrooms packed with jurors, lawyers, and press. For victims of crime, these delays are difficult to deal with. For employers and people applying for jobs though, there are other implications to the backlog in the justice system.
DBS Checks and Convictions
Most job applicants are aware that a wide range of jobs require a check of criminal records before employment. Although Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are most common in healthcare and education, they are widely used in other sectors too. Depending on the level of DBS certificate required for the position, a range of previous convictions or cautions may be disclosed. The starting point for any DBS check is a search of someone’s current, unspent, criminal convictions and/or cautions. A case which is “pending” or waiting to go to trial is not classed as a conviction as it is still to be decided. So where does this leave applicants?
Enhanced Disclosure Checks
The law only permits disclosure of a pending trial in very limited circumstances. Enhanced disclosures are the most detailed level of check, and along with current convictions or cautions, this certificate might also list police intelligence and other information. It is up to the Police to look at the position under consideration and decide whether information they have about an offence which has yet to come to trial is relevant or not. In these circumstances, it is likely that the Police would disclose information about a serious, pending offence which has yet to come to court, but may not disclose something which is less serious, or bears no relation to the position.
It’s impossible to know how many people are waiting the outcome of a court case, who are not in prison on remand and who are applying for jobs which might require an enhanced disclosure. From an employer’s point of view, it’s important to be aware of the situation and the implications of the backlog for DBS. But that doesn’t mean treating everyone with suspicion either.
Cautions are a different matter, as they are not dealt with through the court system. A caution is a way of dealing with a minor matter such as being drunk and disorderly, or getting into a fight on a night out without cluttering up the court system. If the person who commits the offence agrees, they will be issued with a caution in the police station and the matter will go no further. The caution will be recorded on the police record but isn’t classed as an offence. However, it does form part of someone’s criminal record, and might be disclosed in the future on a DBS certificate. Cautions are considered as spent in terms of rehabilitation more quickly than convictions. As police stations are operating as normally as possible during the pandemic, cautions are not affected.