Blanket criminal records system incompatible with right to privacy

25 January 2013

Today the Court of Appeal revealed it has concluded the system of criminal records checks, which requires automatic disclosure of all convictions and cautions to certain employers, regardless of their relevance to the job in question, is incompatible with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a private and family life. It circulated a draft judgment to that effect in December in the case of ‘T’, but the Court’s conclusion had not been revealed publicly until today.

The ‘T’ case, in which Liberty intervened, concerned a 21 year old man who received warnings from Manchester Police when he was 11 years old in connection with two stolen bikes. This information was disclosed on two occasions; when he applied for a part-time job at a local football club at the age of 17 and later when he applied for a University course in sports studies. 

The judgment was due to be handed down on 21 December 2012, but in an unusual move the Court delayed making it public because the Government raised concerns about the implications of the judgment for the CRB system.

A hearing took place at the Court of Appeal today to consider the Government’s concerns. In the course of the hearing the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said that the Government should “pull its finger out” to reform the CRB system, having known about the problems of a blanket system for some time. The Court said it hoped to hand down the judgment next week.

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for Liberty, said:

“The overzealous CRB system has allowed old, minor and unreliable information to wreck the lives of too many hardworking people in the UK.

“The Government can’t put off dealing with this any longer. We look forward to seeing urgent proposals for a proportionate system that properly balances the aim of public protection with privacy rights.”

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3831128


1. The current system of criminal record checks is governed by the Police Act 1997 and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. For certain types of employment, including work with children and vulnerable adults, an employer may request an Enhanced or Standard Criminal Record Certificate. The Police Act 1997 states that both types of certificate must include information on all convictions and cautions, including those that are deemed to be spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

2. The Government’s recent Criminal Records Review recommended the introduction of a “filter” to remove old and minor conviction information criminal record checks, but the Government has not announced any intention to introduce such a system.

3. Rachael Cox also used Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to a private and family life, to get Wiltshire Police to remove a damning and misleading piece of information on her CRB record after she briefly left her children playing in a local park. Watch our short film documenting her experiences.