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Social Media and DBS Checks

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How careful are you with what you write on social media sites? Most people are aware that anything they post on a public feed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or similar might come back to haunt them when applying for a new job. No prospective employer is going to be impressed with posts being critical of your previous employer or sharing racist or abusive posts. However, there’s another way in which what you do on social media can affect your employment prospects, and that’s when you require a DBS check.


Non-Crime Hate Incidents

The College of Policing, which issues guidance on how to record offences to police forces around the UK, is being taken to court over social media posts. If you post something on social media which someone complains to the police about, then it may well be recorded on the police system as a non-crime hate incident. This means that even if no crime has been committed, the fact that you were complained about will be recorded on the police computer. This case was highlighted by a man from Lincoln. He retweeted a limerick which another Twitter user complained was transphobic. Although no action was taken by the Police, this incident is now listed on the police computer.


Enhanced Disclosures

These sorts of incidents are not crimes and will not show up on a basic disclosure check. This level of DBS check only shows your current, unspent convictions and cautions. A non-crime incident is by definition not a crime, so won’t appear. Standard disclosures may show older convictions too, if the police feel that they are relevant to the job under consideration. However, the real issue might be with jobs which require an enhanced disclosure. This is the most detailed level of disclosure, and the Police look at everything on their database about you, whether that is convictions, cautions, or intelligence such as a recorded non-crime hate incident.


Legal Challenge

The legal challenge to recording information in this way is being brought under freedom of expression in the Human Rights Act. In November 2019, the High Court in London started hearing the Twitter user’s complaint against the College of Policing. The hearing is expected to last a few days, but we may have to wait into the New Year for a verdict. Should the High Court find in his favour, this could mean that hundreds of people have their records altered – or deleted – which would mean that this sort of intelligence would no longer appear on any type of DBS certificate.


Implications for Applicants

At present, the best advice to people thinking of applying for a DBS check is to take extra care and consideration over social media posts. If you post or retweet something which someone else finds offensive and complains to the police, then this might appear on an enhanced DBS check at a later date. Keep your eye on the news, as when the High Court releases its judgement, this will be covered in print and online.