According to rehabilitation charities, thousands of UK workers are being blocked from employment as their DBS checks are showing up offences committed while under the age of 18. A Freedom of Information request showed that over 11,000 DBS checks last year indicated some sort of childhood criminal offence.


Distant Offences

The Freedom of Information request showed that in 2021, one third of the childhood offences which were disclosed by the DBS were over 40 years old, and in the most extreme case, the crime disclosed happened 74 years ago. There is a similar picture with cautions, with 8,000 certificates in 2021 showing up cautions which were at least 10 years old. Campaigners are calling for the entire system to be overhauled. They suggest a total disregard for any cautions and all childhood offences on a DBS certificate and rethinking the approach to the automatic disclosure of any prison sentence, however short. The general feeling from campaigners is that although some level of checking is essential, the current system is damaging the prospects of people who may have made mistakes in their youth, and who are now reformed.


November 2020 Changes

In recent years, changes have been made to rules around disclosure of offences. The Supreme Court ordered in 2020 that the DBS should no longer automatically disclose cautions for youths. However, minor convictions are still automatically revealed on certificates. Over time, these will cease to appear on a basic DBS check but may appear on a standard and enhanced DBS certificate forever. The DBS system is constantly evolving, and the current process was introduced in 2002, after school caretaker Ian Huntley was approved for work even though he had been reported to police for sexual offences on multiple occasions. The system is intended to allow employers to identify potential risks and stop people with a long criminal record from working with the vulnerable. As jobs in healthcare or education involve the most detailed checking, this is the situation in which decades-old convictions might turn up on a certificate. A particular issue is with prison sentencing as the law states that any prison sentence can never be disregarded, even if it was a suspended sentence, or for a period of just a couple of weeks.


Getting a DBS Certificate with a Criminal Record

It is important to remember that there is no law around employing someone who has a criminal record. Employers look at the details and the circumstances and assess the information against the job responsibility. It is not a foregone conclusion that anyone with a criminal record will be automatically blocked from all jobs requiring a DBS check. With a long criminal record this might indeed be the case, but many people who have a minor criminal record can get a job, especially if they can prove a lengthy career history and provide excellent references. Ex-offender charities can give specific help and guidance about how to manage the process, however long your criminal record.