Many important items of news have been slipping under the radar as the world concentrates on the Covid-19 pandemic. This means that one of the most important changes in years to the DBS system has largely flown under the radar. However, if you’re one of the thousands of people in the UK who have criminal record, it could hugely improve your employment prospects and put your mind at rest over what might show up on a DBS certificate.


Level of Detail on DBS Checks

The new changes will only affect the most detailed level of checks, standard and enhanced disclosures. A basic DBS check only ever shows your current, unspent criminal convictions and cautions. The length of time it takes for a conviction to be spent will depend on the type of offence, and the sentence. More detailed standard and enhanced checks look more deeply into someone past, and the police have the right to disclose information about convictions which are considered spent under other situations. Over the years, this has led to a fair degree of confusion. People who have a very minor offence on their record from their teenage years faced having to explain the situation to an employer years later, when applying for a job where a DBS check was needed.



Over the years, the DBS has eased the way in which these very old or very minor convictions. This process is known as filtering. The police officer doing the checks at the DBS looks at the information on the record, and also at the type of work the applicant will be doing. They then “filter out” any of the very minor or old information which they don’t think is relevant. Until now, this has largely been a judgement call and the decision will depend on a wide range of factors. For example, someone who has nothing on their record apart from a minor offence as a teenager is likely to have their offences left off their DBS certificate. Someone else who has the same teenage convictions but also several other crimes or convictions over a period of many years is less likely to have the oldest stuff filtered out.


What’s Changed?

The new law around filtering sets out more clearly what can, and cannot, automatically be filtered out. The main change is around multiple convictions. Previously, the DBS would disclose all offences and cautions when a person had more than one conviction on their record, irrespective of the type of conviction and the length of time which had passed since the offence. This has been abolished, giving police the freedom to disregard some very old offences, even if an individual was convicted twice.

These changes will have most impact on people who had a troubled start in life, but who have since turned over a new leaf. Not having to disclose these distant offences should open up more employment possibilities for ex-offenders who would otherwise find that errors in their distant past stopped them from getting work.