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Can i work in a school with a criminal record?
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# 1
tigeress289
Old 13-08-2011, 10:22 PM
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Default Can i work in a school with a criminal record?

Hello I need some advice and unbiased opinions. I recently started work in a local school where my wife has worked for over 20 years. I was taken on as caretaker and filled in a CRB form which I ticked as having a criminal record. The offence was in 1994 when I had a computer company, that had a turnover of 1.6m. It was found that I had sold 50K of stolen equipment which was less than 3% of my turnover. I was convicted of handling stolen goods and given 3 years and a 33426 fine as well as a forfeit order where 45000 of equipment was destroyed even when there was no proof it was stolen. Also over 150000 worth of computer equipment was returned to me after I was convicted with a value of less than 10000 as it had been in police storage for over 18 months from the day of my arrest to conviction.
17 years later I get a job in the school for 4 months and then get sacked by the HR for the record. All the law says is it can only be used if relevant to the job, as a conviction of over 2 years 6 months is never spent. The CRB is clear before that date and since. Quotes from staff and parents have been best caretaker the school has ever had, as I am also a qualified builder and made vast improvements in a short space of time. I declared the CR and most of the staff knew about it anyway.I was never asked about it but would freely talk about. HR instructed the school to dismiss me but the Head and Governors did not want too but were threatened by HR that they would be on their own if I was not dismissed. I am lost to how HR can make such a decision without a fair hearing. Any views please?

Last edited by tigeress289; 13-08-2011 at 10:40 PM. Reason: spelling mistakes
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# 2
SarEl
Old 14-08-2011, 12:45 AM
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It will never be "spent" if you choose to work in any area where an eCRB is required - no conviction ever is. HR do not have to hold a hearing - the court case was the hearing. The employer has a right in law to decide whether or not they will disregard the conviction - whether it is relevant, or whether you think it isn't, does not matter, and the law does not say that is can only be used if relevant, because the law does not dtermine what is and isn't relevant. Employers receive guidance on these matters but what they decide is up to them. As is the liability if they make an incorrect decision. I do not take very seriously any comment about HR treatening that they were on their own if they continued to employ you. HR are not the employer, but they do advise the employer, and if they feel stromgly that the employer is making a mistake they have a responsibility to make their advice and position clear. But the employer makes the decision, and so it was the employer who made the decision, not HR. In fact, I am more seriously concerned that someone was allowed to work in a svhool with access to children for 4 months before their eCRB came through - this should never happen and is a serious lapse on the part of the school. In some employments staff whose checks have not come through can have supervised access to vulnerable clients - in schools this is not the case, and I thought that schools had got this point by now. If the Huntly case showed schools anything it should be that any school employee is accessible to children and trusted by children.

I know the conviction was some time ago, but a sentence of more than two and a half years for a first offence is a powerful long sentence. Amd to be honest - you do appear to be still justifying why what you did wasn't really all that important. How much of your stock was stolen property isn't really relevant to anything - none of your stock should have been stolen property, and a forfeit order is only possible if there is reason to believe that property is stolen. You complain that they couldn't prove it was stolen - a company with a 1.6m turnover should have been able to prove that it wasn't.And none of your property would have been in the police station if you hadn't had stolen property in the first place. You seem to be placing the blame for your conviction and the loss of your stock on the police, and passing it off as something that really isn't all that important because it was "only 3% of the stock". At what percentage would it have been wrong? Perhaps the truth is that the employer felt that your attutude showed little sense of responsibility, and a poor attitude towards committing crime, and that this was an inappropriate role model for children. It is easy to say "it weren't me guv, it were HR" - but this was a decision the Head and the Governors made, not HR.
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# 3
Savvy_Sue
Old 14-08-2011, 1:23 AM
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I agree with SarEl (as I usually do), but especially the bit about being allowed to start work before the disclosure has been received - 4 months is a long time to have been on the premises without it!

All I can suggest for the future is that you take advice from NACRO or any local support scheme about how to disclose your conviction: it's possible - but I only say possible - that IF those doing the checking know a) what to expect when the disclosure comes back, and b) there are no surprises, and c) there is an expression of regret / mitigation, THEN they may decide that you are a suitable person to employ, despite the criminal record.

If you just gave your form in with the box ticked to say you had a record, but without saying what it was for, that does mean they don't know whether to expect a caution for shoplifting when you were 13, or something much more serious and recent.

But you now have a dismissal to contend with as well, which isn't going to make things any easier. See if NACRO can advise on that as well.
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# 4
clairec79
Old 14-08-2011, 12:41 PM
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The way it has always been presented to me was if you say you have a clea record (including spent convictions) and something comes back on your CRB then you'd be dismissed/wouldn't get the job.

If you admitted it before hand you had the chance to explain and each case considered on its own merits
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# 5
Foggster
Old 14-08-2011, 12:53 PM
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I totally agree with SarEl. To add, schools who buy back into the services of their local authority will have the full backing and support of HR, Legal and Children's services in general. This gives them unlimited access to advice, experience and knowledge which no single school could have on its payroll. I wouldnt be surprised if the school in question wont have their knuckles wrapped in no uncertain terms by employing someone without a eCRB in place, it goes against all the hard work that has been put into Safeguarding.

HR didnt make the final decision but the Headteacher and Governors will have been seriously advised against the appointment once the CRB showed up the conviction. Sadly the grape vine would have soon be alive with gossip had it ever been discovered that you have a conviction against you and schools cannot take the risk of attracting this kind of bad publicity especially in a period of falling numbers and squeeze on budgets.

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# 6
t0rt0ise
Old 14-08-2011, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clairec79 View Post
If you admitted it before hand you had the chance to explain and each case considered on its own merits
I expect it was considered but it's a serious offence and they've decided that they don't someone who's been involved in theft working for them. Seems reasonable to me.
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# 7
Nicki
Old 14-08-2011, 1:11 PM
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I have chaired the personnel committee of the board of governors for my childrens school for many years. The advice we have been given by our local authority (and it may be different for each one, so you should check) is that a criminal conviction is not a bar to employing anyone unless it is for an offence against children. We are expected to use our discretion for other offences, and for example an old offence of dishonesty would not normally for us be a bar to employing someone unless it was for, for example, the role of bursar!

Whilst I agree with SarEl that your original offence was a serious one, I would expect 17 years of a clean record to be taken into account, and I do sympathise with your situation. How can we expect people to be rehabilitated if we continue to punish them for something which happened a whole lifetime ago, never repeated, and for which a prison term has been completed?

I can't give much practical advice, as there is no legal remedy open to you. All I can suggest if you wish to work in this kind of field is to be completely up front at interview about the offence and it's seriousness and your rehabilitation from then on, so that they are aware of the exact circumstances before the CRB comes back and get no nasty shocks.

Good luck.
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# 8
Oldernotwiser
Old 14-08-2011, 1:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicki View Post
Whilst I agree with SarEl that your original offence was a serious one, I would expect 17 years of a clean record to be taken into account, and I do sympathise with your situation. How can we expect people to be rehabilitated if we continue to punish them for something which happened a whole lifetime ago, never repeated, and for which a prison term has been completed?

.
Surely a major part of rehabilitation is acknowledging your crimes and taking responsibility for your actions, neither of which seem to be the case in the OP's post.
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# 9
churchrat
Old 14-08-2011, 1:25 PM
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I agree with SarEl, ( I do not have a legal background, but work in probation where work problems come up a lot) Of course you can work in a school with a criminal record, but I doubt you will find one willing to employ you. I have been a school governor and would not have employed you.
If you have tried NACRO and have not had much help ask about local charities. These often have local contacts that are more useful than country wide schemes.
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# 10
poet123
Old 14-08-2011, 1:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicki View Post
I have chaired the personnel committee of the board of governors for my childrens school for many years. The advice we have been given by our local authority (and it may be different for each one, so you should check) is that a criminal conviction is not a bar to employing anyone unless it is for an offence against children. We are expected to use our discretion for other offences, and for example an old offence of dishonesty would not normally for us be a bar to employing someone unless it was for, for example, the role of bursar!

Whilst I agree with SarEl that your original offence was a serious one, I would expect 17 years of a clean record to be taken into account, and I do sympathise with your situation. How can we expect people to be rehabilitated if we continue to punish them for something which happened a whole lifetime ago, never repeated, and for which a prison term has been completed?

I can't give much practical advice, as there is no legal remedy open to you. All I can suggest if you wish to work in this kind of field is to be completely up front at interview about the offence and it's seriousness and your rehabilitation from then on, so that they are aware of the exact circumstances before the CRB comes back and get no nasty shocks.

Good luck.
I agree, I also chair the Staffing Committee, and we are given the same advice. However, we are a VA school and as such have more autonomy than council operated schools.

That said, there will always be those on any committee who will want to err on the side of caution and see a conviction for dishonesty as not compatible with the relatively autonomous role of a Caretaker. Their views probably won out when it was discussed.

Re the CRB, the school is seriously wanting to have an employee on the premises for 4 months without having one. I am astounded that they are so lax.
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# 11
DVardysShadow
Old 14-08-2011, 1:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldernotwiser View Post
Surely a major part of rehabilitation is acknowledging your crimes and taking responsibility for your actions, neither of which seem to be the case in the OP's post.
That is the same argument that keeps wrongly convicted people in prison for the whole sentence without remission because they won't admit the crime they were convicted of.

Now, OP has not specified where the stolen goods came from, so we are unable to speculate. Some people choose not to fight their convictions after their sentence because it can presumable be a life draining experience.

OP is trying to move on. His story needs to be told insofar as it is relevant to his dismissal, but as the question is not about the conviction, we don't need now, 17 years on to needle him over whether there is any remorse. Perhaps we should allow him to move on and it is a shame that the school could not do this too.

If people are not allowed to put their pasts behind them and live honest lives, like OP is trying to do, then we are creating a system where they may find little alternative to returning to crime.

I think that the CRB here has been misused for something way beyond the original intent. It does no one any favours.
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# 12
poet123
Old 14-08-2011, 1:48 PM
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I think that the CRB here has been misused for something way beyond the original intent. It does no one any favours.
The thing is that it is a judgement call by the governors on behalf of the school, and they are accountable for that decision. So, where individually and personally (if it was their own business) they may take the "risk", collectively they have to err on the side of caution as governors and think of the children in their care. It may not be fair, but our litigious society makes this the wise course of action to take.
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# 13
SarEl
Old 14-08-2011, 2:22 PM
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I think that the point is being somewhat missed here. Whilst it is within the power of the employer to decide not to take this conviction into account, they must look at all the circumstances, not just how long ago the conviction was. The OP may well be open to talking to people about the conviction, but if he does so in the way that he has done in his post, then it is not about remorse - it is about not recognising the seriousness of his crime or that it matters too much. There is a difference between apologetic and apologistic. I have utterly no problems with schools or anyone else employing people with criminal records, but I would have a problem if the message that person was peddling about their conviction is that "it's unfair because it was only a little bit of stolen goods and that shouldn't matter".
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# 14
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Old 14-08-2011, 2:31 PM
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I think that the point is being somewhat missed here. Whilst it is within the power of the employer to decide not to take this conviction into account, they must look at all the circumstances, not just how long ago the conviction was. The OP may well be open to talking to people about the conviction, but if he does so in the way that he has done in his post, then it is not about remorse - it is about not recognising the seriousness of his crime or that it matters too much. There is a difference between apologetic and apologistic. I have utterly no problems with schools or anyone else employing people with criminal records, but I would have a problem if the message that person was peddling about their conviction is that "it's unfair because it was only a little bit of stolen goods and that shouldn't matter".
In actuality though and from experience I doubt that his "demeanour" had a bearing on the end result, as to most of those involved it would just be hearsay, they would not have heard it from him personally as most governors have little day to day contact with staff. It may have been communicated to them by the head or it may not have been mentioned at all. I

I suspect it was a simple case of those who had concerns ( about the conviction) won the day over those who were prepared to look past it. The plain truth is that in terms of employment it is a buyers market, and if there are other candidates equally competent most schools would go with one of them.
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# 15
tigeress289
Old 14-08-2011, 2:36 PM
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A big thank you to all of you who have posted, I am amazed at the your comments. To get things straight it was HR who instructed the Head to dismiss me as there was no hearing with the Head and Governors. The Chair and vice Governors are taking this up with HR as I speak but due to the holidays the Head is not back. I was taken on as self employed but checking case law, I was an employeee.
I totally agree that the Head and Governors had the overall say but this was not the position. HR made the decision. The Head 4 days after asked me to re apply in september when the job is re advertised. Does not make sense to me. Sorry about my attitude of my conviction but thats a whole different story. At the time computers were big business and I had one of the fastest growing companies in the UK. All I will say on the matter is my experience of the , was their were the biggest thieves I have ever know.
HR have taken the view that being self employed, they could dismiss me without warning. However, HMRC and ACAS have confirmed that I was an employee but this would mean taking the School to court which my problem is not with them. The HR in question are going in april 2012 which says a lot about them.
I did say my wife works at the school for 20 years and I did tell my line manager about my conviction, but the view was it was years ago and nothing to do with what I was doing.
It has got to me that HR can sack someone without even listening to any kind of mitigation. To make matters worse, I recently wrote to the ex offenders department of the Authority to see if they could help and what did they do? they sent my letter to them straight to HR and I received a reply yesterday from the HR department.
Surely this is a breach of trust. How can a department I am asking help from send a confidental letter to the department I wish to complain about. The way I am reading your replies is that HR are only there to advise where as in this case they instructed the Head to get rid of me, This came direct from the business manager who sat in the meeting. His words were, if the advice was not acted on the school was on its own.
I am taking the HR letter to my solicitors tomorrow to start a formal complaint but it gets to me that not only have I lost a job but the improvements I made in a short time will stop.
thanks again and please keep your views coming as I am looking for that little bit of information that could help me get back.
cheers
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Foggster
Old 14-08-2011, 2:56 PM
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Unfortunately, I have to agree with the Business Manager, that the school will have been advised that they would be on their own if they continued with your employment. So many challenges are made against many large organisations that we all err on the side of caution nowadays. I am sorry but HR have not "sacked you", the school is probably trying to put the blame on their doorstep because ultimately the Board of Governors have the final say. It is probably a very awkward for the school especially has your wife is employed at the same school.

I can see why your upset with the handling of your enquiry to the ex-offenders dept but I do feel you should move on from this as I see very little gain from the challenge.

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SarEl
Old 14-08-2011, 3:02 PM
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I would have to say that I am seriously concerned about this school. Anyone, self-employed or not, must have an eCRB in place. Even contractors visiting on a short term basis. And quite correctly - this was employment not self-employment. Perhaps HR are fed up of them constantly being blase about the law???
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# 18
antrobus
Old 14-08-2011, 3:58 PM
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The position is that of a school caretaker. As in someone who takes care of the school buildings and is in possession of keys and has access to all areas including all the equipment located on said school premises. I would have imagined, were a school caretaker to be in possession of a criminal conviction for theft, handling stolen goods, or something similar, that this would be the kind of 'material fact' that has to be disclosed to whichever insurance company has undertaken to provide the school with contents insurance. I also imagine that the reaction of the insurance company to this news would be to either jack up the premium or decline cover.

I'd therefore conclude that a criminal conviction for handling stolen goods might well indeed be 'relevant to the job' of being a school caretaker. I'd also say that I'm doubtful that HR 'made the decision' to terminate employment - no sensible organisation allows HR to make decisions, they're not really qualified for that sort of thing - HR are most likely simply following policy and, as suggested above being used as scapegoats for the 'decision', simply because they've relayed it down the chain of command.
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# 19
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Old 14-08-2011, 4:20 PM
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Originally Posted by tigeress289 View Post
The way I am reading your replies is that HR are only there to advise where as in this case they instructed the Head to get rid of me, This came direct from the business manager who sat in the meeting. His words were, if the advice was not acted on the school was on its own.
HR have not sacked you, they have advised the school to do so and made it plain that if they do not any repercussions down the line are theirs and theirs alone, hence the school has decided to act on the advice given.

They are not bound to do so, they have made a choice. If it has not gone to governors (which it may not "officially" have to as the head has day to day authority to take decisions on staffing matters) it will certainly have been informally discussed with a section of the GB and their opinions sought.

I really don't think you will get any further with this, as ultimately who a school employs is their decision provided they act within the law.
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# 20
Oldernotwiser
Old 14-08-2011, 5:16 PM
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Originally Posted by DVardysShadow View Post
That is the same argument that keeps wrongly convicted people in prison for the whole sentence without remission because they won't admit the crime they were convicted of.
.
I do appreciate that and thought of it as I typed my reply. However, that isn't the case for the OP who admits the offence but still seems to be making excuses for it rather than admitting full responsibility.
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