Criminal Records and Firefighting

Can I be a Firefighter with a Criminal Record?

What’s the deal with Criminal Records and Firefighting? We get asked this question several times a week at FRS Development. Many people are worried that a past brush with the law could have an impact on their career as a Firefighter.

However, having a criminal record will not necessarily bar you from becoming a firefighter.

If you have a criminal record, and unspent convictions, you will have to declare this during the application process. This includes any offences dealt with by a court of law. It also includes offences dealt with by HM Services.

You don’t need to declare any spent convictions, only unspent ones. Spent convictions are convictions that have reached a set time period.

After this they are removed from a criminal record. Unspent convictions are records that have not yet reached this defined time. These will appear on a Basic Criminal Record Check

The amount of time that has to pass for a conviction to become spent varies. This is subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – it’s a good idea to have a read through this as the rules for each offence are different.

Be aware, the Act is slightly different for Scotland and Northern Ireland!

Criminal Record Checks

Before an offer of employment is made a disclosure document from the Criminal Records Bureau will be obtained. This is standard procedure for all applicants.

If a conviction is highlighted that you have not declared , your application will be withdrawn from the recruitment process. Don’t risk it, and make sure you disclose and convictions fully!

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) was set up to help organisations make safer recruitment decisions. It gives employers access to criminal record information, helping organisations identify candidates who may be unsuitable for certain work.

In particular this includes work involving contact with children or vulnerable members of society.

The CRB check is the national standard throughout England and Wales. Scottish candidates’ details are checked through Disclosure Scotland, and the Northern Irish equivalent is an AccessNI check.

The FRS you’re applying to will pay the fees associated with this criminal record check.

What will the FRS I’m applying to consider?

Your application will be considered fairly and impartially. Candidates are selected on the basis of their skills, qualifications and experience in relation to the role.

Sometimes a panel is convened for further discussion – if this is the case you’ll have the opportunity to provide additional information in a supporting statement.

An assessment will be carried out to identify any potential risks. The panel will then decide if your application can proceed. This usually happens at a fairly early stage in the recruitment process.

The FRS will consider the nature of the conviction, and its relevance to the role. They’ll look at the sentence, any patterns of offending and the length of time since the offence.

Any relevant information offered by you about the circumstances leading to the offence (for example domestic or financial difficulties) will be considered. They’ll look at whether the offence was a one-off, or part of a history of offending.

The FRS will also consider if yous circumstances have changed since the offence was committed, making re-offending less likely.

What about if I spent time in Prison?

This will not necessarily affect the outcome of your application any further. It’s the conviction itself, and the charges, that are being looked into. However prison time (and the age you were when you were imprisoned) can have an effect on the amount of time that has to elapse before a conviction is spent.

Certain convictions can never be spent. These include (but are not limited to) sexual offences, and convictions where a sentence is imposed of more than 12 months of imprisonment for an adult, or 24 months imprisonment for a juvenile.

What about driving offences?

Major driving offences will be considered in the same way as any other conviction, with the situation and seriousness of the charges being taken into account.

Minor driving offences (like points for speeding) that are dealt with out of court, should not affect your application too much, unless perhaps you are on the verge of disqualification.

Remember that a full UK driving licence (some FRSs will let you apply while you’re still learning) is a requirement of the role – so if you’re banned from driving through an accumulation of points this will obviously not be ideal!

If you are still unsure if you can apply due to a conviction, you should discuss this with the recruitment team of the FRS you are applying to. We would always recommend doing this, and providing as much information as you can about any convictions.

DON’T try to hide anything. Even if you somehow managed to slip through the net (which is unlikely) a subsequent discovery of a criminal record (and by proxy dishonesty in your application) could mean immediate dismissal.

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