The Court of Appeal has ruled that the law which requires people to disclose all previous convictions to certain employers is a breach of human rights.
Three judges headed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said neither the disclosure provisions of the Police Act 1997 nor those of an order made pursuant to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 were compatible with Article 8, which relates to private and family life.
They said it would be for Parliament to devise a "proportionate" scheme.
Lord Dyson said they considered it appropriate to make a declaration, as it was not a case where they could be confident that Parliament would move swiftly. He refused the Government permission to appeal but said the declaration should not take effect pending determination of a renewed application to the Supreme Court.
Civil liberties campaigners had called for urgent reform of blanket provisions in the Criminal Records Bureau system which mean employees must automatically disclose all convictions and cautions whether or not they are relevant to the job.
Campaign group Liberty intervened in the case of "T", a 21-year-old man who received warnings from Manchester police when he was 11 years old in connection with two stolen bikes. This information was disclosed on two occasions: when he applied for a part-time job at a local football club at the age of 17 and later when he applied for a university course in sports studies.
After the ruling, Liberty's legal officer Corinna Ferguson said: "This sensible judgment requires the Government to introduce a more nuanced system for disclosing this type of sensitive personal data to employers. For too long irrelevant and unreliable information provided under the blanket CRB system has blighted people's lives. We hope that long overdue reforms - properly balancing the aim of public protection with privacy rights - will now be forthcoming."
A spokesman for the Home Office said: "The protection of children and vulnerable groups must not be compromised. We are disappointed by this judgment and are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court."
Mike Pemberton, the solicitor who represented "T", said: "This is a case where human rights equals common sense. You can't argue that something you did when you were 11 years old will blight you for the rest of your life."
John Wadham, chief legal officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which also intervened in the case, said: "Many of us have been in minor trouble with the law as children, which we regret at the time but we would not expect that to affect our ability to get a job later in life."