Jobseekers’ rights violated by requirement to disclose multiple convictions: judge

Court
Court

A legal requirement to automatically disclose multiple convictions to employers is in breach of job applicants’ human rights, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Treacy held that the statutory regimes violate privacy entitlements protected by European law.

His verdict came in a challenge brought by a woman convicted of seatbelt-related offences dating back to incidents in 1996 and 1998.

Lorraine Gallagher was required to disclose details in a self-declaration form as part of her application for a position as a social care worker with the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

The Trust withdrew its offer of temporary employment in September 2014 because she had not provided full details.

Last year the judge concluded that the statutory framework for automatic disclosure of criminal convictions to employers was indiscriminate and unlawful.

Whereas anyone with a single minor conviction will not have to reveal details after 11 years, those who committed more than one minor offence face having it available forever.

The requirement was also held to violate Article 8 privacy points under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because it does not take into account the relevance or proportionality of disclosing the information.

Earlier this year the case was remitted to Mr Justice Treacy following an appeal by the Department of Justice.

He heard further arguments on the lawfulness of the self-declaration part of the scheme under the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) (NI) Order 1979.

Mr Justice Treacy also had to consider whether the infringement of Ms Gallagher’s rights was in accordance with the law.

In a new ruling delivered on Wednesday, he said she has no protection because she has more than one minor conviction.

“She is placed in the invidious position of either making the declaration and providing the criminal record information, thereby causing an interference with her Article 8 rights, or ... of protecting her right to privacy with the consequence that she would in all likelihood have to walk away from the job application process,” the judge said.

He then held that the 1979 Order violates Article 8 of the convention.

Mr Justice Treacy identified a further violation through the order and part of the Police Act 1997 failing requirements in the quality of law under the ECHR.