It’s natural to be a little concerned about what might be revealed on a disclosure certificate. It’s not a procedure which most of us go through every day, and few people understand the intricacies of the system. To add to the confusion, the way in which information is presented has changed several times over the years. It’s quite normal to see the process referred to as doing a CRB application or getting a police check. Irrespective of the terminology used, a DBS check will involve looking into your criminal record, and then deciding what information to reveal on the certificate. There are fairly strict rules about what will be revealed on the certificate, and it all depends on the sort of DBS check which you have been asked to obtain.
Basic Disclosure Check
A basic disclosure check is the least detailed sort of check. It’s also the only one which you can apply for by yourself, for whatever reason. Many people who are self-employed choose to have a basic DBS check so they can use it as evidence of “good character” for prospective clients. Alternatively, an employer might just choose to run a basic level of checking for all employees, although this is rare.
A basic disclosure certificate will only ever show someone’s unspent, current convictions and cautions only. Spent is a term used in reference to the Rehabilitation Act, which sets out periods of time after which you don’t have to mention old convictions anymore. The period of time varies, depending on the sentence you received, and how old you were at the time. Some of the most serious offences which involved a prison sentence of more than a couple of years will never be considered spent, but a caution for a very minor offence which happened when you were 17 might be spent in as little as 6 months. If something isn’t spent, then it will appear on a basic DBS certificate. If it’s spent, it won’t appear, so you don’t need to declare it.
Standard DBS Checks
A standard DBS check goes a level deeper and might consider offences which are considered spent in other situations. Standard DBS checks can only be requested in conjunction with specific occupations, most of which involve a high level of trust. If for example you are employing a financial advisor, managing money on behalf of clients, then it would be wise to ensure that the person concerned doesn’t have a lot of convictions in the past for fraud or theft. When you submit a standard disclosure check, the police go through an additional process known as filtering. Filtering means the police will gather together all of the information they have about you and consider how relevant it is to the position you are applying for. They may decide that the older information isn’t relevant and will filter it out.
The most detailed level of check is the enhanced disclosure, which is the check done for people working with children or for other vulnerable groups such as the elderly, patients in hospital, or adults with learning difficulties. In addition to looking at the information on the police database about convictions and cautions, an enhanced disclosure will also look at “intelligence” which the police hold about someone, but which hasn’t led to a conviction. The idea is to flag up, for example, repeated allegations of crimes, or a long list of charges which were investigated then abandoned due to lack of evidence. The police have to carefully balance the rights of the applicant to leave their past behind against the rights of the vulnerable groups to protection.
There is one other check which is often done against people planning on working with children and vulnerable groups and this is the check of the Barred Register. This is the list formerly known as List 99. It is a private register, held by the Home Office and is split into two sections. The first contains the names of people who are legally blocked from working with children and the other section has names of people banned from working with adults. Someone might appear on just one register, or both.
Getting the Certificate
When you apply for a DBS certificate, the process ends by the certificate arriving in the post to your home address. This provides the opportunity to look over the certificate before you hand it on to your employer. Mistakes aren’t common, but if you do spot something disclosed on any level of certificate which you are sure doesn’t refer to you, then you have the right to dispute it.
Most employers don’t have a blanket ban on taking on people who have a criminal record. But it’s usually better to be up front with them about any record which you do have and show how you’ve changed since that time.