If you are one of the many thousands of people in the UK who have had a minor brush with the law, then getting a DBS check can be a worrying time. Most people aren’t sure about the type of information which will be printed on a DBS certificate and worry about very minor offences from decades ago being disclosed. The process of filtering is best described as releasing information on a “need to know” basis. What is printed on your DBS certificate will depend on a number of factors.


Basic DBS Checks

If you need a basic DBS check, then it’s usually straightforward to work out what will appear on your certificate. A basic DBS check looks at your current, unexpired criminal record only. In the UK, crimes usually are considered forgotten, or spent, after a certain period of time. The time period will depend on how old you were at the time of the offence, and the type of offence. Something which results in a custodial sentence takes longer to be spent than a minor offence with just a fine as punishment. If you can remember what you were convicted of and when, you should easily be able to work out whether it has been spent or not. Things which are spent will not appear on the basic DBS checks.


Enhanced DBS Checks

The enhanced DBS check is a different matter. This is the sort of check which people need when they will be working with children, or vulnerable adults. It’s a more detailed look into someone’s background, and therefore things which might be considered “spent” in other circumstances may still be listed. This is where the concept of filtering comes in. The police have to tread the fine line between disclosing enough information to keep children or disabled adults safe, yet still protecting the rights of applicants to move on from their past.

The balance in recent years has swung towards protecting the rights of individuals to leave their past behind them. Obviously, the police will continue to disclose serious crimes, especially those which are violent or sexual in nature. But minor issues which have no bearing on the job involved, are likely to be left off a DBS certificate even at enhanced level.


Dealing With Criminal Records

Although the filtering can work in the favour of applicants, it raises the tricky issue of what to tell your employer. Usually, honesty is the best policy. However, is it really worth confessing to a record for getting into a pub fight 30 years ago? Probably not. It is difficult to predict exactly what will be filtered out of the DBS certificate as much will depend on the job. There is lots of information on the DBS website about what filtering is, and how it works. Look through the information which should help you work out what might appear on a certificate. If you don’t want people to find out that you have a criminal record in your distant past, then just apply for jobs which don’t need a DBS check at all.