Telling People

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When you have a criminal record, there are likely to be situations where you will need to tell others about your conviction (sometimes called disclosing). This might involve telling a friend, a family member or a new partner. You might be required to tell an employer, an education provider or other health and finance professionals.

The reasons why you might need to or wish to disclose your criminal record will vary, depending upon many factors, including your circumstances, and the nature of your conviction. 

Whilst the idea of telling people can feel overwhelming, it’s important for you to know that there are steps you can take to help you to disclose, and to help others to understand the information that you are sharing with them.

Telling your partner, family or friends about your criminal record

Telling a new partner, your family or friends about your criminal record could potentially be one of the most important discussions you’re likely to have with them. You may be wishing that you’d had the conversation sooner or concerned that telling them will put an end to the relationship. Despite these worries, not telling them means that you’ll always be looking over your shoulder waiting for the day when your past comes to light.

Giving some thought and preparation to how you tell them will hopefully make you feel more confident in dealing with the questions your partner/friend might have:

  • Plan and rehearse what you are going to say
  • Include before and after details 
  • Think about the consequences of disclosing
  • Keep practising what you are going to say
  • Give some thought to time and place 
  • Apologise if you need to 
  • Speak from the heart
  • Accept your partner’s / friend’s response
  • Answer any questions they have 

Source: Telling a partner, family member or friend about your criminal record - Unlock*.

You can find further information on each of the above bullet points in this very comprehensive resource from Unlock*.

Disclosing to a potential employer

We go into more detail on this topic on our writing a letter of disclosure page.

In summary, you have a few different options that might be appropriate in different circumstances:

  • On your CV
  • In an application form
  • Over the phone
  • Face-to-face at an interview
  • When you are offered the job
  • In a letter of disclosure

Writing a letter is often the preferred method of disclosure. This is because it gives you the opportunity to lay out all of the background information in written form. You might find this preferable to disclosing verbally in an interview, which might be a more stressful setting.

If you are unsure as to whether you need to disclose your conviction to a potential employer, you may find our Spent or Unspent page useful.

Scotland Works For You is also a really helpful resource (see pages 34 - 45).

Other reasons you may need to disclose

Disclosing a sexual offence

Where the offence is of a sexual nature, you may wish to seek additional support and advice in terms of making a disclosure. It is important to understand the reasons why you may need to disclose, and, if self-disclosing, how to initiate conversation. 

Lucy Faithfull Scotland has some excellent resources to help you: Consequences, media impact and disclosure 

Lucy Faithfull Scotland is also able to offer phone: 0800 1000 900 and email support via a secure email.

There is also a live online chat function available, which can be accessed via a chat icon on the website.

Lucy Faithfull Scotland can support you with managing your thoughts and behaviour, understanding reasons for offending, reducing the risk of reoffending and making positive changes in your life.

If you have a sexual offence relating to a child, you may want to familiarise yourself with the Sex Offender Community Disclosure Scheme, as it is this scheme that allows other people to request information about your criminal record.

Disclosing Violent Offences

If you have been convicted of a violent offence, you might be required to disclose your offence to family and to other agencies. This can feel overwhelming and you might feel concerned about other people’s opinion of you after disclosing.

You may also find this resource useful in terms of changing and managing your behaviour, reducing your risk of reoffending and finding support for your family members: The Caledonian System - Aberdeenshire Council

If you have an offence relating to domestic abuse, you may want to familiarise yourself with the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland, as it is this scheme that allows other people to request information about your criminal record.

A table with examples of appropriate language use

*Unlock is a charity based in England and Wales. Although much of the information on their website is applicable UK wide, some does not apply to Scotland.

They also provide a free helpline. However, if you do contact their helpline, it is important that you tell them that you live in Scotland, because many of the laws are different.

A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024
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