Disclosing Convictions and Police Involvement
Privacy and spent convictions
Data concerning an individual's convictions or any involvement with the police is considered sensitive, and is protected by the right for respect to privacy under Article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as data protection laws. There could however be proper reasons why it is necessary to disclose this data. Working out the appropriate balance between the individual's right to privacy and the interests of the public is a tricky problem.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 usually lets individuals begin with a clean record after they have paid their debt to society. This is done by ensuring that after a particular amount of time, certain convictions will become “spent”. When a conviction becomes spent the individual is not usually required to disclose it. This rule however is subject to some important and wide exceptions.
There are differing rules that apply when it comes to the individual's own right to keep information from other individuals about their past convictions, as opposed to the rights, obligations and powers of other individuals to share information that they may have about their past convictions and involvement with the police.
Retention and disclosure of information about your convictions and other involvement with the police
Though the ROA gives the individual the right, in particular situations, not to reveal spent convictions about themselves, it still keeps the right of others, like police forces and departments of government, to retain data concerning unspent and spent convictions from official records, to access it and to distribute it in the course of their duties with people who have a legitimate interest in discovering about such data. People with such a legitimate interest can be members of other police forces, other government departments, or employers.
Going abroad and conviction by foreign courts
The ROA applies just to the United Kingdom, and it has no power or consequence to the laws of other nations. As an example this means that applicants for permits, visas or immigration to a nation such as Canada, will have to tell them about their spent convictions. This is the case unless the law of the other nation has an Act like the ROA, which will mean that the extent of the individual’s duty will have to be made clear on the application form. If the individual is in doubt about the laws of the foreign nation then they should ask the high commission or embassy of the nation concerned.
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