FairChecks supporter Caroline spent 8 weeks in prison 10 years ago during a difficult time in her life. She has not been in trouble since. But when she applied for a role in the NHS, she was told she was a threat to patients and colleagues and had no future in the organisation.
Caroline struggled with drink between 2009 and 2011. During that period she was charged with common assault, actual bodily harm, criminal damage and not turning up for unpaid work. She went to prison for 8 weeks of an 8 month sentence. Since her release she has turned her life around. She has collected good references and a positive employment history working at a pharmacy for 10 years.
During the pandemic, Caroline applied to work for the NHS as part of the vaccination effort. Due to an administrative error, she was told the role only required a basic criminal record check, which did not require her to disclose her old conviction. Caroline got the job and started working. When the error was discovered, her employer said she’d been dishonest by not voluntarily revealing her past conviction. Her employment was terminated.
Caroline is not alone. In fact, many people with even shorter prison sentences face the same difficulties. Around 10,000 people each year receive a prison sentence of less than one month. After a certain period, a short prison sentence no longer appears on a basic criminal record check. But lots of jobs require more detailed enhanced checks. Anyone who has served a prison sentence, even for just one day, or has been given a suspended prison sentence must reveal this to employers forever if they want to work in the NHS, social services, and many other jobs.
We need to change the system so that people who have turned their lives around after serving short prison sentences have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
“I’m looking for jobs at the moment and I’m basing the whole search on what checks the employer will do, it’s crazy.
I know I’m not a danger or a risk to other people. I went through a really bad drunken period when a lot of stuff was going on more than a decade ago. All the wheels came off.
And course, I’m angry at myself – how could I be so stupid? But I’ve been punished, I can’t be punished for the rest of my life. The criminal records system is genuinely confusing. I can’t believe good character references count for nothing in employment, it’s all about criminal records. We need some common sense – where people who can prove they’ve changed can appeal for their records to be removed.“Caroline, FairChecks supporter