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Criminal record checks to be relaxed

Old and minor cautions and convictions will no longer appear on criminal records checks undertaken by employers for positions where the recruit will be working unsupervised with children and vulnerable adults, the Home Office has announced.

Under the proposed changes adult cautions will be filtered from records after a period of six years, while those received by a young offender will be filtered after two years.

The current system discloses all convictions and cautions, which are then revealed to prospective employers, even those that are "spent".

It follows a Court of Appeal ruling in January that blanket checks did not comply with human rights laws.

All serious violent and sexual offences will continue to be disclosed.

Under the proposed legislation, convictions resulting in a non-custodial sentence will be filtered from record checks after 11 years for adults and five and a half years for young offenders.

Cautions will be filtered from record checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau, after six years for adults and two years for young offenders.

The changes will affect workers and volunteers who apply for jobs that require a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), including teachers, doctors, nurses and care-home workers. Between 2011 and 2012, more than four million people applied for a criminal records check.

A spokesperson at The Home Office told HR magazine: "It's important employers do not just rely on checks by the DBS to make recruitment decisions. They have a professional duty to ensure that staff are properly managed and supervised and thta, if they have concerns, information is referred to both the police and DBS."

Law firm Eversheds believes the move "will be welcomed" by many employers.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, minister for criminal information, said: "The protection of children and vulnerable groups is of paramount importance to this Government.

"Criminal records checks are an important tool for employers to use in making informed safeguarding decisions.

"This new system of checks strikes a balance between ensuring that children and vulnerable groups are protected and avoiding intrusion into people's lives."

This new checking system is due to be implemented within weeks, subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.