UK appeals court rules criminal records disclosure law violates human rights

[JURIST] The UK Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Tuesday that a Criminal Records Bureau [official website] law requiring individuals to divulge all previous convictions to certain groups of employers is a breach of human rights. The court held that the disclosure provisions of three legislative acts that required certain job applicants to disclose all minor crimes, including those committed as a juvenile, were incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The case was brought to the appeals court by the UK rights group Liberty [advocacy website], which intervened on behalf of a 21-year-old man who was forced to disclose in applications that he received a warning from police when he was 11 years old in connection with two stolen bicycles. The requirement was also heavily criticized by other civil rights groups, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) [advocacy website], another intervener in the case. In response to the ruling the EHRC's chief legal officer praised the decision [press release]:

Many of us have been in minor trouble with the law as children, which we regret at the time but we would not expect that to affect our ability to get a job later in life. However, if the police and other bodies can pass on this information without our knowledge it will have serious implications for our lives and careers.This is an important ruling to establish how the authorities deal with confidential information they hold which could have a negative impact on people's lives. ... The fact that the Court has made a declaration of incompatibility indicates the seriousness of the contravention of human rights obligations in this case, which Parliament must now correct without delay.
The UK government, however, was "disappointed" in the decision, claiming that the it compromises the "protection of children and vulnerable groups," and it plans to appeal [BBC report] to the Supreme Court.

Civil rights remain an important and controversial issue in the UK. Last week, the UK government introduced a bill [JURIST report] that would extend marriage rights to same sex couples, and it is expected that the bill will pass next month. Earlier that week, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Maina Kiai urged [JURIST report] the UK to review certain legal and policing policies that negatively affect the right to peaceably assemble. Earlier this month, the UK took on the prosecution of a human rights case when it arrested a Nepal Army colonel [JURIST report] on charges of torture during Nepal's 2005 civil war. The UK will be investigating these allegations against him, and the UN has urged Nepal to work with it.

 

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