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Forcing Applicants to Disclose Offenses Breaks Human-Rights Law

A law requiring people to disclose past criminal offenses when applying for jobs dealing with children or adults in supervised care violates their privacy under European human-rights law, a U.K. court said.

Parliament should amend two laws to drop the requirements in some cases, such as when the offenders were children at the time or the incident happened a long time ago, a three-judge appeals court panel in London ruled today.

The case stems from lawsuits by people who broke the law or received police cautions and later encountered problems with employment, including a man whose offense when he was 11 years old came back to haunt him when he applied for a job at a soccer club.

The U.K. government will seek to appeal the case to the country’s highest court and Jean-Christophe Gray, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, said he was “disappointed” with the ruling.

“The protection of children and vulnerable groups must not be compromised,” the U.K. Home Office said today in an e-mailed statement.

The disputed laws are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which dozens of countries have signed up to, the court ruled. While the laws protect people in good standing from being affected by old violations, there are “blanket” exemptions involving jobs relating to vulnerable groups, the court said.

Parliament Amendments

“It will be a matter for Parliament to decide, in the light of this judgment, what amendments to make,” the judges said. “It is not for the court to prescribe the solution that should be adopted.”

Another claimant, identified as “JB,” won her appeal even though she was an adult when she broke the law.

“Her offense was of a trivial nature committed some eight years before she applied for a post working with vulnerable people,” the judges wrote. “She too is entitled to a declaration” that the law is incompatible with human-rights protections.

Lawyers for two unidentified claimants in the case said they were affected negatively by a “blanket and indiscriminate policy,” according to the judgment.

One of the claimants lost her appeal. The woman, identified only as “AW,” was 16 at the time she committed a “very serious offense” resulting in a five-year jail term that would have been much longer if she’d been an adult, the judges said.

The case is The Queen on the Application of T v. Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Case No: C1/2012/0520, C1/2011/1660 & C1/2011/1678, Court of Appeal (London).

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