Many jobs require a DBS check, and in order to establish whether an individual caution or conviction will appear on the certificate, it’s important to understand the system in general terms and the three levels of disclosure check. In the most basic terms, what shows on your DBS certificate will depend on which level of check you have had.

Basic Disclosure – this is a statement of current and unspent convictions and cautions only. So, if your caution happened very recently, it would still appear on a basic DBS check.

Standard and Enhanced Disclosure – these checks are more detailed and in addition to current convictions and cautions, might show older convictions and cautions which you won’t have to disclosure under other situations.


Filtering Process

In 2013 there was a new mechanism added to the DBS check system called Filtering. This means that many minor offences will automatically be taken off a DBS certificate. An applicant will never have to disclose them to an employer, and the employer will never find out.

Filtering has a similar concept to the standard rehabilitation process under the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Filtering looks at this list of minor convictions and cautions and takes them off the certificate in the same way as older offences are disregarded under rehabilitation law. Filtering doesn’t mean that these cautions and convictions will be struck from your police record – it just means that it won’t appear on that particular DBS certificate.


Cautions and Convictions Eligible for Filtering

There isn’t an exhaustive list of convictions and cautions which are automatically filtered out for DBS certificates. But in general terms, the DBS will filter out minor offences, or those which don’t involve substantial harm to others. These offences could be along the lines of:

  • Being drunk and disorderly
  • Convictions/cautions for possession only of small quantities of drugs
  • Common assault
  • Motoring offences (fixed penalty offences such as speeding or running a red light are never disclosed)
  • Theft without violence

If you have cautions for one or more of these offences in your distant past, then the DBS will filter them out, provided that a minimum time period has passed. This period is two years if you were under 18 at the time, or six years if you were 18 or over. More serious offences, especially sexual offences or those involving violence, and not eligible for filtering from a DBS certificate.


Convictions and Filtering

Only single convictions which didn’t result in a prison sentence can be filtered out – so if you have more than one conviction for the same thing, then this will appear on your DBS certificate. Convictions can be filtered out after 5.5 years for under 18s and 11 years for older people. There is lots of information on the DBS website about convictions or cautions, and how it might affect you. The ex-offenders’ charity, Unlock, also has very specific guidance and also operates a helpline for anyone confused about what may or may not appear on their certificate.