One of the questions we’re often asked here at uCheck is: do DBS checks show cautions?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) exists to help employers make safer recruitment decisions.

DBS checks disclose information that helps employers determine whether an applicant is suitable for a particular role.

This includes showing certain police cautions which may be relevant for the prospective employer to know. Those which aren’t relevant will be filtered and won’t appear on the DBS check.

Our blog explains which cautions appear on a DBS check, how long a caution lasts for, and how the caution filtering system works.

What do DBS checks show?

There are four different levels of DBS check: 

  • Basic 
  • Standard
  • Enhanced
  • Enhanced with barred lists check

The amount of information revealed depends on the level of check.

Basic DBS Checks or ‘Basic Disclosure’ will show any unspent convictions or conditional cautions the applicant has.

Standard DBS checks show details of spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on police records.

Enhanced DBS checks show the same information as standard checks, plus any additional information held by local police considered relevant to the role in question.

Enhanced with barred lists checks show the same information as Enhanced checks, but also show whether the applicant is on the list of those banned from the role.

The DBS filtering system

In May 2013, the government introduced a filtering system, meaning that not all cautions and convictions are revealed by DBS checks.

The filtering process identifies and removes certain protected cautions and convictions so that they don’t show up on DBS disclosures.

Filtered cautions and convictions are not wiped from police records – they simply don’t show up on DBS certificates.

In addition, employers are not allowed to take old or minor convictions and cautions into account when making a decision about a job applicant. 

It’s important for job applicants to know which cautions and convictions will be filtered, as applicants aren’t legally obligated to reveal these to employers.

Which cautions and convictions are filtered from a DBS?

Multiple cautions can be filtered, as long as the offences in question are eligible for filtering and the relevant period of time has elapsed for each one. 

Each caution is processed separately.

Only single convictions that didn’t result in a suspended or custodial sentence are eligible for filtering. 

Again, the offence in question must be eligible and the relevant period of time must have elapsed.

This means if you have more than one conviction, all of them will appear on your DBS. 

However, following a July 2020 ruling, this multiple conviction rule is set to change later this year.

Some examples of offences eligible for filtering include:

• Drunk and disorderly
• Common assault
• Drugs offences only involving possession
• Many motoring offences
• Theft, if no violence is involved

Examples of offences NOT eligible for filtering include:

• Safeguarding offences
• Sexual offences
• Offences involving violence
• Drugs offences involving supply

These lists are not exhaustive. For a full list, check out the DBS’ list of offences that will never be filtered from a DBS check.

The filtering periods for cautions are two years for under 18s and six years for those aged 18 and over.

The filtering periods for convictions are 5.5 years for under 18s and 11 years for those aged 18 and over.

Court ruling for future changes to the caution filtering system in July 2020

The government has announced that there will be changes to the disclosure regime. 

This amendment to the Police Act 1997 will stop youth cautions, reprimands and warnings being automatically disclosed on a DBS. (Please note that this applies only to youths i.e. children aged 10-17).

It will also stop the automatic disclosure of convictions where there are more than one conviction.

uCheck will provide updates on the changes when more information is available.

Are there any exceptions to the caution filtering system?

There are a few roles where no convictions and cautions will be filtered out, as applications for these positions do not go through the DBS.

This includes police vetting and people applying for firearms licences.

Do DBS checks show cautions? A summary

The DBS filtering system prevents certain cautions and convictions from appearing on DBS certificates.

Whether a caution or conviction is filtered will depend on the type and age of the offence.

Job applicants have no legal obligation to disclose to their employer any caution or conviction which would be filtered.

Refer to the government’s DBS filtering guide for more detailed information or get in contact should you have any questions about DBS checks.

If you’re an individual or employer looking for a DBS online application, you can use our intuitive DBS platform.

Updated 4th August 2020

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Our blogs are advisory in nature and reflect uCheck Limited’s current thinking about best and common practice in the subjects discussed.

The information contained in our blogs have been provided for information purposes only. This information does not constitute legal, professional, or commercial advice. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure that the content is up to date, useful and accurate, uCheck gives no guarantees, undertakings, or warranties in this regard, or, for any loss or damage caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with reliance on the use of such information.