Supreme Court Makes Ruling on Youth Cautions

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Pressure is being brought on the Disclosure and Barring Service to change its policy on youth cautions. A year after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, people applying for enhanced disclosure checks still have the possibility of cautions received many decades ago appearing on their certificate.


The Court Ruling

The case about youth cautions was brought to the Supreme Court by four anonymous claimants. One of the claimants received two reprimands, now known as cautions, for minor offences when he was just 13 years old. Years later, he lost his job in a library when he was asked to apply for an enhanced disclosure and the old cautions showed up. Experts estimate that there are around a million cautions, reprimands and other youth offences lurking in people’s distant past and criminal records.

Just for Kids Law, the charity which brought the case to court, argued that it was contrary to rehabilitation law to disclose these very minor offences several decades later. The Supreme Court judges agreed and ruled that these sorts of offences should indeed by left in the past. However, since the 2019 ruling, no action has been taken by either the government or the Disclosure and Barring Service to change the law, or the policy when deciding about disclosing old cautions.



This ruling shouldn’t be confused with the rules around filtering when it comes to DBS checks. At present, there is a process for deciding which offences should be disclosed on a certificate, and which shouldn’t. This is known as filtering. In filtering, the police look at the applicant’s criminal record, and the type of work they have applied to do. This informs the decision about what to disclose on the certificate. If someone has a couple of youth cautions and then a clear record, they may well decide not to disclose the cautions. If however a couple of youth cautions were the start of a longer pattern of offending, then the DBS may decide that the cautions are indeed relevant.

This new judgement from the Supreme Court states that all youth cautions should be disregarded, whatever the type of job, and whatever the applicant went on to do in later life. This is a huge change in the way the DBS will work in the future.


I Have Youth Cautions – What Should I Do?

If you have a couple of youth cautions on your record but have not been in trouble with the law for many years, then you probably don’t have anything to worry about. Your cautions will usually be filtered out and your employer will never know about them. This isn’t guaranteed though. If your caution is directly related to the work you are planning to do, then it may still be disclosed. The best advice is always to be honest with your employer. Lots of people have made mistakes in their youth, then gone on to lead a successful career. The trick is to show how you’re now a reformed character.