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The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week in favour of a woman who had complained after she was turned down for two jobs as a family support worker because she had a police caution for child abduction.

The woman, from Northern Ireland, who was not named in the judgment, had disappeared with her 10-month-old baby grandson as part of a family dispute. The child was returned unharmed just over 36 hours later. She accepted a police caution for the offence and was told that it would be removed from her record after five years.

The woman applied for jobs as a family support worker in 2006 and 2007 but was turned down on both occasions.

She took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that the retention and disclosure of her police caution to prospective employers was a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects private and family life.

The court stated that the system appeared to have “no scope for the exercise of any discretion in the disclosure exercise” and lacked any means of bringing an independent review of a decision to retain or disclose data.   In other words, employers cannot be trusted to make decisions based on all the available information and balance the risk.

The court then went on to rules that; “The Court is not satisfied that there were, and are, sufficient safeguards in the system for retention and disclosure of criminal record data to ensure that data relating to the applicant’s private life have not been, and will not be, disclosed in violation of her right to respect for her private life.“

Following the Inquiry into the Soham murders, all convictions and cautions where the victim was a child would remain on police records for life and currently anyone applying to work with children or vulnerable adults must undergo an enhanced criminal records check that will disclose both spent and unspent convictions and cautions.

We wait and see if employers can be trusted or if the CRB regime is destined for the dustbin.

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