One of the biggest buzzwords currently in disclosure checking is filtering. Journalists and experts throw the word around as if everyone knows what it means but in reality, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what filtering is and how it works.
Idea Behind Filtering
Each of the agencies which run police checks operate a process along the lines of filtering. The Disclosure and Barring Service in England and Wales, Protecting Vulnerable Groups in Scotland and AccessNI operate independently, but along similar broad lines. The general idea behind filtering is that it is not fair to keep disclosing very old or very minor convictions throughout an ex-offender’s life. People should be given the opportunity to make a fresh start. On the other hand, many of the people applying for DBS checks are working with the most vulnerable people in the UK. The police must balance the need to protect people against the right of employees to leave their past behind.
How Filtering Works
Part of the reason there is so much confusion around filtering is that there are no hard and fast rules about how it works. There are basic guidelines which the police look at when working out which sort of convictions or cautions should be disregarded, but every case is considered individually. The police will take into account the type of job being applied for, the length of time since the criminal conviction, the nature of the offence, and what the applicant has been doing in the interim period. Someone who has, for example, a shoplifting conviction from two decades ago will more than likely have this filtered out when applying for a job in a hospital. Someone who has a more recent conviction for violence is unlikely to get the same result.
It’s also important to remember that DBS certificates don’t show a pass or a fail. All they show is a statement of the convictions and cautions which have been found on your record. The police, or the Disclosure and Barring Service, never make any recommendation about whether or not someone should be employed. That is entirely up to the employer. A business may still decide to employ someone with criminal convictions, depending on their own risk assessment process. It is not illegal to employ someone who has a criminal record, despite the common misconception.
Approaching The Issue of Convictions
If you have criminal convictions in your distant past, don’t automatically assume that they will bar you from taking a job. A very old conviction which is unrelated to the position will probably be filtered out. Even if it does appear on your DBS certificate, your employer may still take the decision to employ you.
The advice we always give is the same. Be up front and honest about the convictions. Don’t try to hide what’s in your distant past, and be clear that you’re a reformed character who has turned over a new leaf many years ago. This is much more likely to go in your favour then trying to hide your criminal record.