Open letter to Kenny MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Full criminal record disclosure for the purposes of employment is inconsistent with Article Eight of the Human Rights Act, according to news reports emerging on 25 January 2013.

While this ruling was made specifically about English processes in an English court, it was within the context of the European Convention of Human Rights, and it was declared on an auspicious day for Human Rights activists in Scotland, inspired for hundreds of years by the work of Robert Burns.

While indicators of risk of child abuse are important to prevent the type of abuse which was of greater prevalence during the 20th century, there is a plethora of other useless but deeply personal information available and it is used to unfairly discriminate against people in this century. In fact, there has never been a time in history when criminal record information has been so freely available.

This is information about acts of anger, pride or jealousy which were punished and recorded inconsistently – a source of regret and personal embarrassment for many. For example, a lady charged with racist breach of the peace for comments made to her own father during a heated family argument and a man who was charged with procession of drugs which he had taken from his teenage son.

A third of unemployed people have criminal convictions (excluding common driving offences) and a significant number of graduates, apprentices and working young people acquire a Friday night conviction, which changes their prospects and causes anxiety.

Even with more serious convictions or persistent offending behaviour, there is clear evidence that after 4 years of being crime free, the likelihood of the person re-offending is about the same as the general population. Many individuals are ready to contribute long before this.

Primarily, the hearts and minds of recruiters need to change but there is an opportunity for legislature to remove more convictions from the record and to require employers to assess the relevance of any declared convictions at interview and not during paper sifts. Attitude and aptitude for work is in no way diminished by a criminal record.

Recruit With Conviction is the campaign to support employers in the safe and effective recruitment of people with a criminal record.

Richard Thomson, Director, Recruit With Conviction Ltd