Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Nacro [DP203]



Nacro is the largest crime reduction charity in England and Wales. We help over 70,000 people each year, reducing crime and the impact of crime in over 200 communities up and down the country.

Nacro’s mission to reduce crime and change lives is predicated on the conviction that we must reduce the devastating effects crime has on individual victims and on communities, using evidence-based practice to do what works to reduce crime and reoffending. Victims of crime have to live with the experience forever, whilst those who commit crime can find it hard to break the destructive cycle of offending. At Nacro our work focuses on:

intervening early with people at risk of becoming involved in crime and antisocial behaviour to prevent crime happening in the first place;

working with people in prison or on a community sentence so they change their behaviour, take steps to repair the damage they have caused individual victims and communities, and move on from crime and offending; and

resettling offenders after custody helping them to find a home, a job, develop new skills, rebuild relationships and reintegrate into their community.

Our Resettlement Advice Service offers the UK’s only dedicated confidential helpline and online service providing free expert advice, support and advocacy to serving prisoners and ex-offenders who have put their offending behaviour behind them but face severe barriers to moving their lives on as a result of the stigma attached to their former behaviour. We work very closely with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) who put employers and members of the public in touch with us for advice on matters relating to CRB checks and risk assessments. We help thousands of people every year in this area and the helpline has handled over 250,000 enquiries since CRB checks were first introduced. We also work with NHS trusts, local government, the police, the probation service, the private sector, and educational institutions providing guidance on safer and fairer recruitment practices.


The Resettlement Advice Service received a request for input, based on its expert knowledge of criminal records, from Eleanor Scarnell, Inquiry Manager of the Home Affairs Committee, who is in the process of compiling a list of professions where a conviction for possession of Class A or B drugs may have an adverse impact on an individual’s current or future employment.

General principles

Having a criminal conviction in relation to possession of Class A or B drugs is not intended to be an automatic barrier to employment. Our understanding and experience at Nacro is that, unless an individual is barred by the Independent Safeguarding Authority from working in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults—and they would not generally be barred for possession of Class A or B drugs—then it is completely down to the discretion of the employer whether they will consider employing the applicant.

If an applicant has an unspent conviction for possession of Class A or B drugs and is applying for a position covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) then the individual would need to disclose the conviction if asked by the employer. This could have a negative impact upon their ability to obtain employment as many employers are risk averse when making employment decisions, particularly towards convictions for offences relating to violence, drugs and those of a sexual nature. Research shows that many employers will not knowingly consider employing an applicant with a conviction, and nearly 50% of employers would not employ an individual with a drug-related conviction.1

If an applicant is applying for a position that is covered by the ROA, that individual would not need to disclose their conviction if it has become “spent”.2 So it should not have an impact on their career if the organisation concerned is carrying out an appropriate level check of that person’s criminal record (ie a basic disclosure). However, many organisations routinely carry out standard or enhanced CRB checks even though the position is not eligible for these checks under the ROA Exceptions Order 1975.

Based on our experience, these unlawful checks often have an extremely negative impact upon an individual’s ability to obtain employment. Many employers routinely withdraw job offers once they receive a CRB certificate detailing a conviction, even when the applicant has already disclosed their criminal record during the recruitment process. In addition, many employers operate a clean CRB policy, will not accept applicants with any information on their record and will not take into account any other factors such as: the disposal issued; the length of time that has elapsed since the conviction; mitigating circumstances; or the person’s employment record before and after the conviction.

If an individual receives a conviction for possession of Class A or B drugs during the course of their employment, then they would not necessarily need to disclose the conviction to their employer unless it is stipulated in their contract of employment. If they are required to disclose their conviction as per the terms of their contract and have not done so, then they could face disciplinary proceedings and face dismissal for gross misconduct.

If an individual is applying for a role that is exempt from the ROA 1974 (and thereby included on the Exceptions Order 1975) then they would have to keep disclosing their conviction until they reach the age of 100 years old. The applicant would also have to disclose other disposals including cautions, reprimands, final warnings, bindovers, and absolute and conditional discharge orders. These roles qualify for either a standard or enhanced CRB check and an employer can always take the drugs conviction into account when determining the applicant’s suitability for the role. As mentioned earlier, many employers will not consider an applicant with a conviction for possession of Class A or B drugs. In addition, many otherwise suitable applicants are put off from applying for these roles, whether paid or voluntary, as they fear they will face discrimination.


As part of our research, we contacted a number of relevant regulatory bodies including: the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Health Professions Council, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the General Pharmaceutical Council, the General Teaching Council, the Care Quality Commission, the General Social Care Council and the Solicitors Regulation Authority to query whether an applicant would be refused registration, denied employment or dismissed for having a conviction specifically for possession of Class A or B drugs.

All of the regulatory bodies corroborated our understanding of the position: namely, that an individual would not necessarily be restricted from employment in an exempt profession for having a conviction for possession of Class A or B drugs, even in professions which involve the individual having unrestricted access to prescription drugs.

In addition, our research confirmed that an individual would not necessarily be prevented from applying to other professions which require the applicant to have a higher level of personal integrity including working as an MP or local councillor, working in the security services or for the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The only role we could identify where an individual would automatically be barred for having a conviction for possession of Class A or B drugs is the newly created Police Crime and Commissioner role.

Data sources

In carrying out this research, we contacted the following organisations by telephone or in person:

the General Teaching Council;

the General Medical Council;

the Solicitors Regulation Authority;

the Nursing and Midwifery Council;

the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons;

the General Pharmaceutical Council; and

the Health Professions Council.

In addition, the following web links were accessed:


https://www.mi5.gov.uk/careers/how-to-apply/vetting/drugs-and-criminal- convictions.aspx


Criminal Records Bureau

Working Links

Care Quality Commission

November 2012

1 Prejudged: Tagged for Life, available at http://workinglinks.co.uk/pdf/Prejudged%20Tagged%20for%20life.pdf

2 Under the ROA, people who receive a sentence of less than two and a half years in prison, also undergo what is known as a rehabilitation period. Once a rehabilitation period has expired and if no further offending has taken place, a conviction is considered to be “spent”. Once a conviction has been spent, a person does not have to reveal it or admit its existence in most circumstances, including, for example, when applying for a job.

Prepared 8th December 2012