How can I find out what information is held on my police record?

The Subject Access provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 give individuals the right to have a copy of any personal data held about them.

If you would like a copy of your police records for your own reference, you can apply for a Subject Access Request through the Association of Chief Police Officer’s (ACPO) Criminal Record Office (ACRO). They provide a Subject Access Request service for the majority of police forces and you can apply online or by post.

If you cannot find your police force listed on the ACPO website you can request the records 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 and the application costs £10. The police have up to 40 days to issue your certificate.

Your Subject Access certificate will provide a copy of your Police National Computer (PNC) record. This will include details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands, as well as penalty notices, arrests that resulted in no further action (NFA) and not guilty verdicts in court.

Your Subject Access certificate provides a lot more information than a basic, standard or enhanced disclosure certificate would provide. If you receive your Subject Access certificate and would like advice about what would be disclosed on a criminal record check, please see here or contact our helpline on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.

How long is information retained by the police?

Since 2006, police retain details of all recordable offences until the individual reaches 100 years of age.

Before 2006, the police could delete eligible records under the old ‘weeding’ guidelines. Individuals could apply for eligible records to be removed and it would seem, in some cases, that eligible records were automatically deleted. However, the process was not systematic and many records that were eligible for deletion were not deleted.

How can I get inaccurate information removed from the Police National Computer (PNC)?

If you believe that the information held on the PNC is inaccurate or incorrect you will need to contact the Data Controller or data protection office for the force which owns the data. This information should be on your certificate and you can find the contact details on the relevant police force’s website.

What is the process for being issued a police caution?

Adult simple cautions

Simple cautions are issued by a police officer in a police station. Before administering the caution, the police officer must do the following:

  • Ensure that you understand that you do not have to make an immediate decision about accepting the caution and offer you the option of taking free, independent legal advice
  • Ensure the you understand that you have the right to legal advice at any time during the process
  • Ensure that you understand the effect of the caution and the implications of accepting it as set out on pages 15-16 of this document
  • Ensure that you have made a clear and reliable admission of guilt with respect to the offence for which the caution is being issued
  • Confirm that you consent to receiving a simple caution
  • Ask you to sign a simple caution form setting out the implications of the caution
  • Sign the simple caution form themselves and provide you with a copy to take away

Adult conditional cautions

Conditional cautions are usually issued in a police station or, occasionally, at a location that is appropriate to the offence (but not on the street or at your home). The police must seek authorisation from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to issue a conditional caution. This consultation should be carried out as quickly as possible, either with a Crown Prosecutor located at the police station or by telephone.

In exceptional circumstances, it may not be possible for the police to consult with the CPS on the spot, in which case you may be bailed under s. 37(7)(a) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

When administering a conditional caution, the following requirements must be met:

  • Ensure that you have the option of taking free, independent legal advice
  • Ensure that you admit to committing the offence
  • Ensure that you understand the effect of the conditional caution and the implications of failing to comply with the conditions
  • Ask you to sign a form setting out your admission to committing the offence, your consent to accepting the caution, and an agreement to comply with the conditions and the implications of failing to do so

For further information and to read the Conditional Cautioning Code of Practice, please see here.

Youth cautions

Reprimands and final warnings were abolished under the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 with effect from 8 April 2013. Youth cautions may be issued where a young person (aged 10-17) admits an offence and there is a realistic prospect of conviction, but it is not in the public interest to prosecute.

Youth cautions are issued by the police, but the police may ask the Youth Offending Team (YOT) to carry out an assessment of the young person before issuing the caution. The young person may be bailed in order for the assessment to take place.

Youth cautions may be issued in a police station or a youth offending team premises. If the caution is being issued as part of a restorative justice process, the caution may be issued at the premises where the offence occurred, if this is deemed appropriate. Before administering the caution, the police officer must do the following:

  • If you are under 17-years-old, or if there is any doubt about your ability to understand the nature or implications of accepting the caution, the caution must be issued in the presence of a parent, guardian or other appropriate adult
  • Specify the offence for which the caution is being issued
  • Explain the effect of the caution and the implications of accepting it as set out on page 23 of this document
  • Ask you and your parent, guardian or appropriate adult to sign the caution document – copies should be given to you both

If you have previously received a youth caution, you will be referred to a YOT who will carry out an assessment and consider putting in place an intervention programme designed to prevent reoffending.

Youth conditional cautions

The youth conditional caution may be issued in a police station, court building, YOT premises, the offices of any prosecutor, or any other suitable location consistent with achieving the appropriate impact on you. The police must seek authorisation from the CPS to issue a youth conditional caution. The Crown Prosecutor will also seek advice from the local YOT as to the appropriate conditions to attach to the caution.

When administering a youth conditional caution, the following requirements must be met:

  • You must be given the option to take free, independent legal advice at any point during the process
  • The prosecuting officer must set out the evidence against you and the decision made to conditionally caution you. If you are under 17, or if you are aged 17 but there are doubts about your ability to understand the process and implications, this information must be provided to you in the presence of a parent, guardian or appropriate adult
  • The effects and potential impact of accepting the conditional caution must be explained to you
  • The conditions of your caution, the process for monitoring your compliance with the conditions and the implications of failing to comply with the conditions must be explained
  • You and your parent, guardian or appropriate adult should be asked to sign the caution document – copies should be given to you both

Can I get my caution removed from police records?

If you have accepted a caution, you have admitted guilt or liability for the offence for which the caution was issued. There is no formal right to appeal against the issuing of a caution, but if you feel that the police did not follow the specified procedures or if you were unfit to accept the caution at the time, you may be able to challenge the caution. This will usually need to be done within a reasonable time frame of the caution being issued.

If you wish to challenge a caution which you have accepted, you will need to seek legal advice.

Can I get my conviction removed from police records?

Police Chief Officers cannot overrule conviction decisions made by the courts. The only way to get your conviction removed from police records is to appeal against the conviction through the courts. You will need to seek legal advice if this is something you wish to pursue.

I was told my conviction would be removed after five yearsWhy is it still on my record?

Since 2006, the police retain details of all recordable offences until you reach 100 years of age. Your conviction will always show on your police records but the conviction may not show on your criminal record check that is used for employment vetting purposes. This will depend on:

  1. The type of check you are applying for
  2. Whether your conviction is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA)
  3. Whether your conviction is eligible to be filtered from standard or enhanced DBS certificates

If you are in any doubt, please contact us for further advice on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.

Can I get details of arrests or allegations removed from my police record?

If the police investigation has concluded, you can apply to get details of your arrest(s) or allegations removed from the PNC if:

There is no automatic right to have this information removed. Applications are considered by a Chief Police Officer on a case-by-case basis. The grounds on which you can make your application include:

  • Where it is established that no crime was committed
  • Where there is corroborative evidence that a malicious or false allegation was made against you
  • Where there is corroborative evidence that you had a proven alibi
  • Where the disposal options were administered incorrectly
  • Where your suspect status was unclear at the time of arrest and you were subsequently eliminated
  • Where a judge or magistrate has made a recommendation for the deletion of your DNA and fingerprints from police records
  • Where another person was convicted of the offence and there was no possibility of more than one offender
  • Where there is a wider public interest to do so

You can find further information about these grounds in Annex A of this document. If you feel you have sufficient grounds to make an application, you will need to do the following:

  • Complete a formal application
  • State your grounds clearly and unambiguously
  • Provide proof of your identity and current address
  • Identify your preferred method of contact

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Criminal Records Officer (ACRO) will receive your application and assess whether it is eligible. If the application is not eligible, they will advise you accordingly. If the application is eligible, they will forward it to the relevant police force for consideration. The police aim to deal with applications within 40 days.