I don’t know what is on my criminal record. How can I find out?

The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you the right to apply for a copy of any personal data held about you.

If you are not sure what information is on your criminal record you can apply for a subject access request through the Public Access or Data Protection Office of your regional police force headquarters. The forms are usually available to download on the relevant police force’s website.

Alternatively, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) Criminal Records Office (ACRO) also provides a subject access request service for the majority of police forces. Please go to the ACPO Criminal Records Office website where you can apply on line or by post.

When completing the subject access request form, you can request a copy of your Police National Computer record, which will provide details of all convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands held on their criminal record. This is the information that will definitely be disclosed on standard or enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, unless it is protected (i.e. eligible for filtering). If you would also like details of your local records, which may be disclosed on enhanced DBS checks at the discretion of the relevant chief constable, you can apply for their full nominal record from the police force that holds the information. You will need to visit the relevant police force’s website to find the right form.

Can an employer check my criminal record without my knowledge?

No. Due to strict data protection laws in the UK, an employer cannot access details of your criminal record without your consent.

However, many employers admit to searching for information about applicants or employees online, using Google or other search engines. If there are details of your offence(s), or alleged offence(s) available online, an employer may find out in this way. It is a good idea to Google your name to see what comes up before applying for jobs; that way you can at least be prepared to answer questions an employer may have.

Can an employer ask me to provide a copy of my police records?

No. You can get a copy of your police records by applying for a subject access request, but Section 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) makes it a criminal offence for an employer to require an applicant, or existing member of staff, to make an enforced subject access request and then share the information with them.

There are formal channels that employers must use if they wish to access information on your criminal record. They may ask you to apply for a basic check through the DBS (England and Wales), Disclosure Scotland (Scotland) or Access Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland), or for certain jobs they may ask you to apply for a standard or enhanced DBS check (or equivalents if you will be working in Scotland or Northern Ireland). Some jobs require a specific type of vetting that includes checks on criminal record information, but outside of these procedures an employer cannot request your criminal record information.

Is an employer entitled to ask me to apply for a criminal record check?

Yes. All employers are entitled to ask you to apply for some type of criminal record check, but the type of check they are entitled to request will depend on the job for which you are applying.

All employers are entitled to ask, and know, about any unspent convictions you may have. All employers are therefore entitled to request a basic check, which will provide details of unspent convictions.

If you apply for a job which is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the employer is entitled to ask you to apply for a standard or enhanced DBS check.

If you apply for a job that requires security clearance, the employer is entitled to ask you to complete the security clearance questionnaire which will include questions about your criminal record. If you apply for a job that requires security clearance and you are not sure what you need to declare, please contact the Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.

An employer is requesting a check that I believe is unlawful. What should I do?

It is unlawful for an employer to request a DBS certificate (standard or enhanced) for a role that is not eligible. You can find details of standard or enhanced-DBS-eligible posts here; you can also contact our helpline for advice on specific roles by calling 0300 123 1999 or emailing helpline@nacro.org.uk.

If you believe that an employer is requesting a DBS check unlawfully, you can complete the DBS application form and make a note of the application form number. You should then email the following information to the DBS Customer Services Team at customerservices@dbs.gsi.gov.uk:

  • Your full name, current address and date of birth
  • The position applied for (attach the job description if you have one), the organisation’s name, the Registered Body number and the 11-digit reference number on the DBS application form
  • Details of why you think the application is not eligible

In the subject line of the email enter ‘APPLICATION ELIGIBILITY QUERY – URGENT’.

On receipt of your email, the DBS will make a note on their system to look out for your DBS application. When it is received, they will contact the Registered Body that has submitted the application on behalf of your employer and will query the eligibility with them. They will not notify the Registered Body or your employer that you have contacted them.

If the DBS are not satisfied that the check is eligible, they will simply not process the application and will advise the Registered Body that they can do a Basic Check as an alternative if they wish.

If the DBS are satisfied that the check is eligible, they will notify you and the application will continue as usual. If you know that information will be disclosed on your DBS certificate and you would like to proceed with the role you have applied for, it would be a good idea to think about preparing your disclosure. Please refer to our disclosure guide, or contact us for further advice and support about preparing your disclosure.

What will be disclosed on the different checks?

Information that may be includedBasic DBS checkStandard DBS checkEnhanced DBS checkEnhanced and barred DBS check
Information that may be includedBasic DBS checkStandard DBS checkEnhanced DBS checkEnhanced and barred DBS check
Unspent convictionsv
Spent convictions (that are not protected)
Cautions, reprimands and final warnings (that are not protected)
Inclusion on the children’s barred list (where relevant to the post)
Inclusion on the adults’ barred list (where relevant to the post)
Other relevant information+

+This includes information about allegations, arrests, matters that resulted in no further action or not guilty verdicts. This information is not automatically included on enhanced DBS certificates. For more information, please see here.
In May 2013, the government introduced a filtering system that allows certain minor cautions and convictions to be removed or filtered from standard and enhanced DBS certificates. A protected caution or conviction is eligible for filtering and does not need to be disclosed for jobs that are subject to standard or enhanced DBS checks.

What is a protected caution or conviction?

If you would like to know whether a caution or conviction is protected, please contact Nacro’s Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 or look at our filtering guidance.

Do I need to disclose motoring offences when applying for a DBS certificate?

Motoring offences are criminal offences and they may form part of your criminal record, depending on whether the offence is recordable and on the disposal you received. If you were convicted of a motoring offence (i.e. admitted guilt or were found guilty in court), this will form part of your criminal record and will be subject to filtering legislation if you are applying for a standard or enhanced criminal record certificate.

If you received a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for a minor motoring offence and you paid it on time, it will not form part of your criminal record and will not need to be disclosed when applying for a DBS certificate. If you opted to attend a driver awareness course in place of accepting an FPN, again this will not form part of your criminal record and will not need to be disclosed when applying for a DBS certificate.

I received a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND). Will this show up on my DBS certificate?

No. A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) and a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND) are on-the-spot fines issued by the police for very minor offences. If you pay an FPN or PND within the specified time-limit, all liability for the offence is discharged and the offence does not form part of your criminal record.

I am a UK national and I have been convicted of an offence in another country. Will this be disclosed on my criminal record certificate?

Possibly. If you were convicted in an EU country, the conviction details will be passed to the UK’s Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records (UK-ECR). If the equivalent offence in England and Wales is deemed ‘recordable’, it will be added to the Police National Computer (PNC). If you reside in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the information will be forwarded to the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) and/or the Police Service in Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The UK has bilateral agreements for the exchange of criminal record information with a large number of countries outside of the EU. If you were convicted in a country outside of the EU, this information may be passed to the Non-EU Exchange of Criminal Records (NEU-ECR) and updated on the PNC accordingly.

You can find out if your conviction details have been recorded on the PNC by applying for a Subject Access Request. If you find that the information has been recorded and you are applying for a criminal record certificate, your record will be treated in line with the relevant legislation as it applies in the country you are applying to. For further details about what will show on different levels of criminal record certificates, please see here.

Why are my convictions still showing after many years?

The police retain details of convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands on the Police National Computer (PNC) until a person reaches 100 years of age. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Disclosure Scotland and Access Northern Ireland use the PNC as their main source of information when processing standard or enhanced disclosure certificates.

Standard or enhanced certificates are only eligible for roles that are not covered from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. This means the employer is entitled to take into account all cautions and convictions you have received that are not protected (i.e. eligible to be filtered from your DBS certificate).

Filtering legislation was introduced in England and Wales in 2013, in Northern Ireland in April 2014 and in Scotland in September 2015. The filtering rules are different in each jurisdiction. If your caution or conviction is not eligible to be filtered, it will always be disclosed on your standard or enhanced certificate even if it doesn’t seem relevant to the role you are applying for.

Can I get information removed from my basic disclosure certificate?

If the information on your basic disclosure certificate is incorrect, you can raise a dispute with the relevant disclosure body. For further information about disputing your DBS certificate, please see here. For further information about disputing your Disclosure Scotland certificate, please see here. For further information about disputing your Access Northern Ireland certificate, please see here.

If the information is factually correct and unspent, you cannot get this removed from your basic disclosure certificate. Once the offence(s) become(s) spent, the information will automatically be removed from future basic disclosure certificates.

Can I get information removed from my standard or enhanced DBS certificate?

If the information on your standard or enhanced DBS certificate is incorrect, or if the criminal record information is not your own, you should raise a dispute through the DBS’s disputes channel within three months of the issue of the DBS certificate.

For standard and enhanced certificates, the DBS is obliged to disclose details of convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands held on the PNC that are not protected (i.e. eligible for filtering).

If your convictions and cautions are not protected (i.e. eligible for filtering), it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get them removed from your standard or enhanced DBS certificate as the police do not routinely remove convictions, cautions, final warnings or reprimands from the Police National Computer. If you believe that there are extenuating circumstances as to why the information on your criminal record should be removed, you are entitled to ask the police to remove it under the Exceptional Cases Procedure. Please be advised that the removal of convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands is extremely rare.

How can I get my caution or conviction removed from my standard or enhanced DBS check?

The DBS have a legal duty to disclose all convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands on standard and enhanced disclosure certificates which are not eligible to be filtered under the current legislation.

If the information on your DBS certificate is incorrect, or if the records disclosed are not your own, you should raise a dispute through the DBS disputes channel within three months of the issue of the certificate.

Will details of allegations, arrests, matters that resulted in no further action or not guilty verdicts be disclosed on my criminal record certificate?

This sort of information, known as police intelligence or other relevant information, will not appear on a basic or standard DBS certificate. It is not routinely disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate, but the police have the opportunity to disclose any information that they feel is relevant to the position and therefore may be included.

In determining whether or not to disclose this sort of information, the police must follow a decision-making framework, justifying their reasoning at each stage of the process. This framework is known as the Quality Assurance Framework. Please see relevant documents below:

  1. The Statutory Disclosure Guidance that police must adhere to when deciding whether to disclose information
  2. The GD2 Disclosure Text Guidance (p6) which shows the template that police must use when disclosing information.

When the police are deciding whether information ought to be included, they must satisfy three tests:

  • Relevance – is the information relevant to the position/job being applied for? Under this test, the police will also consider whether the information is sufficiently current, taking into account how long ago the incident occurred, the age of the applicant at the time of the incident and their conduct since.
  • Truth – does the information come from a credible source?
  • Proportionality – the police must decide whether by not disclosing the information on the certificate, they are placing vulnerable groups at risk of harm or, if by disclosing it, they are breaching the applicant’s human right to a private life.

You cannot find out for certain whether police intelligence will be disclosed on your enhanced DBS certificate. However, as DBS certificates are now issued to applicants only, you have the opportunity to dispute any information that has been disclosed prior to showing the certificate to your employer.

If you would like advice on disputing the inclusion of police intelligence, please contact Nacro’s Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.

I am due to attend court for a pending matter. Will this appear on my criminal record certificate?

A pending matter remains an allegation unless, or until, you either admit guilt or are found guilty. Allegations are not disclosed on basic or standard DBS certificates. An allegation or pending matter may be disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate at the discretion of the police. For further details, please see here.

If you secure employment before attending court for a pending matter, and you either plead guilty or admit guilt, you will have a conviction which you may need to disclose to your new employer.

I have just received a police caution.  Do I need to tell my employer?

It is advisable to check the terms of your employment contract, if you have one. If it is a condition of your employment that you notify your employer of any police cautions that you receive during the course of your duties, it may affect your employment if you do not disclose this. If this is not specified in your employment contract, you may not need to disclose the caution.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, simple cautions are ‘spent’ instantly and do not need to be disclosed for most jobs. However, if you are in a post that is subject to periodical DBS checks, it is advisable to disclose the caution to your employers rather than wait for your next DBS check to disclose it for you.

If you work in a role that is regulated by a governing/regulatory body, it may be a condition of belonging to that body that you notify them of ‘any change in circumstances’. For example, if you hold a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence, it is a condition of the licence that you notify the SIA of any ‘change in circumstance’. If you fail to disclose your caution to the SIA, you may have your licence withdrawn when you apply for your renewal and they request an updated criminal record certificate.

I have just been convicted.  Do I need to tell my employer?

It is advisable to check the terms of your employment contract, if you have one. It is usually a condition of your employment that you notify your employer of any convictions received during the course of your employment. Failure to notify your employer may be considered a matter of gross misconduct and you could find yourself subject to disciplinary proceedings.

If you are in a post that is subject to periodical standard or enhanced DBS checks, it is advisable to disclose the conviction to your employer as soon as possible rather than wait for your next DBS check to disclose it for you.

If you work in a role that is regulated by a governing/regulatory body, it may be a condition of belonging to that body that you notify them of ‘any change in circumstance’. For example, if you are a registered nurse, it is a condition of your registration to notify the Nursing and Midwifery Council, as well as your employer, of any convictions (or cautions) that you receive during the course of your registration.