What business has an insurer asking about any criminal convictions you might have? It might seem like a particular form of discrimination – suggests the Citizens’ Advice Bureau – but insurers in fact have the right to ask you just such questions. And if you are asked, you are obliged to declare certain of those convictions so they can find you a specialist criminal convictions insurance policy.
Insurers are able to discriminate in this way because they may use your record of a criminal conviction in the assessment of the risks for which you want cover.
If you are applying for motor insurance, for instance, an insurer might regard past motoring offences as an indication of a heightened risk of your being involved in an accident – and making an insurance claim – in the future.
In the case of home insurance, an insurer might want to take into account any conviction for offences such as criminal damage, arson or dishonesty.
Any criminal convictions insurance provider that asks you to declare in this way are known as “material facts”, affecting the assessment of risk, and which you are obliged to declare under any insurance contract’s principle of “utmost good faith”.
What this means is that if you deliberately fail to declare information for which the insurer has asked, the entire contract may be considered null and void – and any claim you may subsequently make may be rejected.
Your rights and options
Not all insurers attach the same weight to criminal convictions – some might reject your application, it is true, but others may attach specific conditions or simply increase the price of the premiums you pay. Still others may take a particular interest in extending insurance cover to those with criminal convictions.
Negotiating your way through this maze and identifying those insurers likely to look on your application more favourably is rarely easy. That is the reason why, here at GSI Insurance, we make it our business to help obtain criminal convictions insurance to find the cover they need – we have even written a guide to help you through some of the considerations you might want to keep in mind.
Your rights are also protected by the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act,1974, as amended.
This established the important principle that for the great majority of criminal offences there comes a time when you have paid fully any debt to society for your wrongdoing, your penalty is “spent”, the slate is wiped clean and you are no longer obliged to inform anyone – including your insurer – of that past conviction.
Although the principle is simple and straight forward, actually working out the period which attaches to various convictions before they are regarded as “spent” in the eyes of the law may prove quite complicated.
Distinguishing between “spent” and “unspent” convictions is important when deciding exactly what needs to be declared to an insurer, so you might want to use a helpful online calculator produced by the charity Unlock to establish just what still may need to be declared and what offences and penalties are now regarded as “spent”.