Illegal criminal record checks on staff being carried out by employers

Employers are making illegal criminal record checks on staff, amid calls for a review of the law.

A BBC Radio 4 investigation has discovered requests to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for applicants to jobs such as train drivers, gardeners and bricklayers.

The law states CRB checks should only be carried out for sensitive work, such as with children or vulnerable adults. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, non-custodial offences and those involving a prison sentence of less than 30 months become spent after set periods of time, free from any further convictions.

The CRB said employers were best placed to know whether a check was necessary.

But crime reduction charity Nacro said the CRB should only grant lawful requests for information. There are currently no figures available on the number of illegal CRB checks that are requested each year.

Anthony Scrivener QC, a former chair of the Bar, said the law ought to be reviewed.

“You really can’t rely on the goodwill of an employer if he’s given this information,” he told the BBC. “They may be entitled to have it but they should still exercise discretion.”

In 2006, Personnel Today revealed that employers in the NHS were breaking the law by making illegal background checks on all new staff, not just those who have access to patients.

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