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Criminal records and the law

Posted By Christopher Stacey, Unlock, 23 October 2016
Updated: 18 October 2016

What are the laws regarding disclosure of criminal records?

by Christopher Stacey, Unlock

When you think of an “ex-offender”, you probably think of somebody that’s been to prison.

People leaving prison certainly struggle to find work. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of people are unemployed on release and 80% of people make at least one benefit claim within a year of release. Yet less than 10% of people that get a criminal record end up going to prison.

There are over 10.5 million people in the UK that have a criminal record and many face stigma and discrimination when applying for work, despite having put the past behind them. People with convictions make up a sizeable proportion of the unemployed population – 33% of Job Seekers Allowance claimants have received a criminal record in the last ten years. For many, it can be their main barrier to employment.

Crucially, there are laws that protect people from having to disclose in many situations, so it’s important that people understand if and how these apply to them. For example, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 sets out when convictions become “spent”. Once an offence is spent, it no longer needs to be disclosed for most jobs, and the time it takes for many convictions to become spent was significantly changed in 2014 and it’s been reduced in many cases.

Unfortunately, there is a real lack of advice and support provided to people on how to understand and deal with their criminal record. We know that most employability professionals are not provided with any formal training. In a recent government report, only 29% of prison leavers received advice on dealing with their criminal record from the Work Programme.

Unlock is an independent charity for people with convictions. We assist people to move on positively with their lives by empowering them with information, advice and support to overcome the stigma of their previous convictions. For many years, one way we’ve gone about doing this is by working closely with employment support workers to help them as professionals to be better equipped with expert, accurate and up-to-date knowledge on criminal records and disclosure.

We do this by delivering training. Our one-day ‘Advising with Conviction’ course is endorsed by IEP and covers issues such as how individuals can find out about their criminal record, how to know whether a conviction is spent or not, and if they need to disclose, how best to go about it.

We regularly run these courses in London. The forthcoming dates are:

  • 22 February 2017
  • 19 April 2017
  • 21 June 2017
  • 4 October 2017

Places can be booked online by visiting We also run in-house training sessions for larger teams and this is often much more cost-effective. If you’re interested in organising an in-house training course, get in touch by emailing

For more information contact:

Christopher Stacey, Co-director
Unlock, for people with convictions


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