A new workplace policy last year required Enhanced Disclosures of criminal records for all staff, in keeping with recent Scottish legislation on protecting Vulnerable Slugs.
I pre-warned my line manager immediately of the unfortunate incident in Nov 2005- a regrettable drink-driving offence- and also a prehistoric 1984 conviction in Brighton for possession of drugs as a 20 yr old student, from the good old days of stop-and-search. This latter should have been expunged (even for enhanced disclosures) in 2004, since I'd not re-offended.
The Enhanced Disclosure certificates came back from Disclosure Scotland a few weeks back. The bosses had considered and counted as irrelevant the information before I'd even gotten around to opening my copy of the certificate. The recent regrettable drink-driving was there, but also the ancient history drug possession. Not only am I intrigued, but also activated by the legal grey areas of my 1984 conviction and its disclosure.
The Scottish legal justice system operates on the 20/40 year rule- that excepting life custodial sentences and sex offences, convictions are 'weeded' from the police computers when the convict reaches 40 yrs of age and the offense is 20 years old without recidivism. 'Weeding' means that the offence is not just spent in term of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but also for perpetuity.
The English/Welsh/N Ireland system previously operated a similar expungement system whereby offences would be written off after 20 years or less, providing no repeat offences were convicted. Serious offences stay on record for 20 years, less serious ones or those committed by young persons are expunged sooner.
But then (as I understand things) the Ian Huntley case caused a major panic. The enquiry into how this child-abuser, who'd been cautioned for child sex offenses, got a clean criminal record check to work as a school janitor precipitated a new system whereby all spent offences, cautions and indeed even 'police intelligence' would be kept on the Police National Computer (PNC) in perpetuity and disclosed as thought appropriate by Chief Police Officers to potential employers.
I learned from the March 2008 Retention of Records Guideline from ACPO, that 'stepped down' (i.e. spent and expunged records) can only be disclosed, even on an enhanced disclosure, at the express permission of a Chief Officer, following his/her application of a mysterious 'relevance test'.
This means the Chief Constable of Sussex Police has personally decided that possessing recreational drugs as a 20 year old student in 1984 is so serious and relevant a crime that it should be actively disclosed to employers, even though it has 'stepped down' according to guidelines.
So- where are we?
1. If I'd been caught with my wee personal stash in Scotland in 1984, the conviction would be gone bye-bye, but because I was nabbed in England it's not.
2. Because possession of drugs has been downgraded but not decriminalised, the PNC can keep it in file in perpetuity, despite that if I was caught with the same in 2008, I'd get a hand-slap at most.
3. A criminal record which should have been deleted from the PNC in 2004, according to then-current legislation, has re-appeared, phoenix-like.
4. A 'relevance test' personally conducted by the Chief Constable of Sussex Police has determined that an isolated drug possession by a 20 year old student still remains relevant 24 years later to her suitability to work as slug physiologist.
This situation is luckily not a personal problem, but it does highlight the idiocy and inconsistency of state apparatus. Out of interest, I'm instituting a 'dispute' on my 1984 offence disclosure.
There's a lot more info out there on how the PNC is now allowed to hold discloseable details of your convictions, cautions, unsuccessful prosecutions, 'intelligence' and even simple allegations, all until you die or reach 100 years.
And if you want a laugh, inspect ACPO's 'severity' rating for criminal offences, determining the time till they 'step down'.
'Possessing controlled drug' (any and all) is a category A offence requiring at least 20 years before being 'stepped down', along with genocide, manufacturing chemical weapons and terrorism offences.
In Category B (less serious) are 'Causing death by reckless driving through drink or drugs', GBH, racially-aggravated assault, people-trafficking, indecent assault on a minor, child-stealing, child cruelty and gross indecency.
In Category C (least serious) are assault, battery, child neglect, selling weapons to children or the insane, cruelty to animals, industrial pollution and detaining a woman in a brothel.