There is lots of terminology around the issue of DBS checks. If you’re not up to speed with all the jargon, it can be very complex. One of the more commonly used terms is filtering. Filtering has been in the news over the last month, as the rules about how the concept is applied have changed. It’s therefore probably a good time to run through the basics of what filtering is, and how it works.


Assessing Information for DBS Certificates

When we’re talking about filtering, we are only referring to the more detailed standard and enhanced disclosure. The basic disclosure check is just a statement of your current, unspent criminal record and there is no flexibility over whether to disclose information or not. If the conviction is unspent, then it will appear on the certificate.

Standard and enhanced disclosures are a different matter. In addition to your current and unspent convictions or cautions, police look at older items on your criminal record too. This is where the filtering process comes in. Police will look at all the information on their system and assess how relevant it is to the job the person is applying for. This is known as filtering, as the police are “filtering out” anything which is irrelevant.


Changes to Filtering

Until recently, there were no hard and fast rules about how the police went about this process. A lot was left up to the judgement of individual police forces. Over the years, there has been a general trend towards a more lenient approach to filtering. That doesn’t mean that police are not telling employers about recent, serious convictions – on the contrary. It does mean though that people who have some minor offences in their distant past shouldn’t worry as much about having their future job prospects damaged by a 30-year-old offence.

Changes by the government in England and Wales in July 2020 have formalised this approach to filtering out the oldest and least important offences on someone’s record. Under previous guidance, the policy was to disclose all convictions if someone had offended more than once, irrespective of the type of offence or how long ago it happened. Someone who, for example, had two minor convictions for shoplifting or assault as a teenager but had kept a clean sheet ever since, would see those offences disclosed when applying for a DBS certificate.

The new law removes this requirement for automatic disclosure of multiple offences and allows police to use their judgement. It doesn’t mean these offences will never be disclosed. If the offences committed as a teen were just the start of a long pattern of offending, they probably will be disclosed. But the new laws are an attempt to even the playing field for people who have had chaotic childhoods through no fault of their own. Knowing that their oldest offences will be filtered out of the DBS check process encourages them to apply for jobs in a wider range of employment sectors.