Misleading question for a volunteer role

Whilst working on a case we came across an application form for a volunteer role at a regional care provider that involved volunteers in its work. We identified a misleading question under their “Disclosure of criminal convictions” section. The question was in connection with an enhanced DBS check and stated:

“Have you ever been convicted by the courts or cautioned, reprimanded or given a final warning by the Police? (Please note that the post you have applied for is exempted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which means that all convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings need to be disclosed”.

We wrote to the organisation setting out why we believed that the question was a misleading one. We informed them that it did not make reference to the fact that you do not have to disclose filtered or protected convictions, cautions, reprimands or final warnings for roles that involved an enhanced DBS check.

The organisation replied, informing us they had sought guidance on the matter we had raised and as a result had reworded the “Disclosure of criminal convictions” section of both their volunteer and employment application form to state:

“Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

In order to protect the public, the post you have applied for is exempt from certain provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. You are therefore required to disclose all and any past or pending cautions or convictions, whether spent or otherwise, unless it is either a “protected caution” or a “protected conviction” under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.”

Lessons

This case shows how organisations struggle with asking the questions about criminal records in clear and simple terms, especially given changes to the rules which, in this case, came into force in May 2013.

However, once they are made aware of their misleading questions, some are happy to amend their questions to ensure that they are clear and concise.

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Christopher Stacey