A lot of the information which has been written about criminal records checking refers to the Disclosure and Barring Service, or DBS. This is the records checking body which covers England and Wales, but if you live in Northern Ireland of Scotland, you will be dealing with a separate body. This is mainly down to the different legal systems between the separate nations which make up the UK. There is often no direct comparison between offences in Scotland and England, for example, and the terminology used varies wildly too. You don’t have any choice over which body will do your check as your home address determines which body you will use for your check.


Disclosure and Barring Service – DBS

The Disclosure and Barring Service, or DBS, is the body which covers checks in England and Wales. If you currently live in England or Wales, this is the body you will approach for your check, even if your employer’s head office is elsewhere. DBS has its head office in Liverpool, most of the process is managed online or by phone. The DBS has been known by various names over the years as the system for checking criminal records has evolved. Until about 10 years ago the DBS was known as the Criminal Records Bureau or CRB, and you’ll still see people writing about CRB checks or talking about similar. What they really mean is a disclosure check through the DBS.


Disclosure Scotland and Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG)

In Scotland, the organisation which looks after police criminal records checks in called Disclosure Scotland, and the system they run for looking at people’s records is Protecting Vulnerable Groups, or PVG. The legal system in Scotland is completely different from England and Wales, with different names for offences and different sentencing and rehabilitation laws. People in Scotland applying for jobs which require criminal records checks will see references to a “satisfactory PVG check” in advertisements. The application process is very similar to the one operated by the DBS, with an online application form and identity checking stage before a certificate is issued.


Access NI

Northern Ireland’s court system is again separate from that in the rest of the UK, and police criminal record checks there are done by a body called Access NI. This is a government agency which is part of the NI Direct government portal which provides information on everything from Covid vaccines to benefits.


Varying Application Processes?

Although there is a range of different bodies carrying out police checks in separate parts of the UK, the process is broadly similar, wherever you live. Online applications are easiest and quickest, and the website should highlight any essential pieces of data which you may have missed. You will also have to gather together a range of documents to prove both your identity, and address. This could include passport, driving licence, bank statements or other bills. Once you have completed the online form, submit it for checking. The body concerned will then process your application and send out a certificate in the post.