Millions of us get a DBS certificate through the post, and in nearly all cases, there is no surprise when we look at the information presented. A DBS check is a way of looking into the criminal record – if any – of someone who has applied to work. There are different levels of check with different levels of detail revealed, but what happens when a certificate drops through your letterbox with details on it which you don’t recognise?


How Do Errors Happen?

The DBS check system, which replaced the CRB application about 10 years ago, was designed to be robust and as error-free as possible. That’s why such an important part of the application process is providing a range of documents such as passport, driving licence and bank statements which confirms the police are looking at the records for the right individual. But as with any system, there is room for errors. There are two main reasons why something might appear on your disclosure certificate which doesn’t belong to you:

  • Mistaken Identity – perhaps the person who has committed the offence has a similar name to you, or the same date of birth, lived in the same town or went to the same University. It’s easy to see how John Brown born on 11/10/80 could potentially be confused with Jon Brown born on 10/11/80 if the person entering the details into the computer isn’t paying attention, especially if they both live in Bristol.
  • Malicious – it’s not unknown for people to lie to the police and give fake details when they are arrested. Usually this is sorted out when they are taken to the police station, but some people might get away with pretending to be someone else. The end result of that is the same, in that someone else’s misdemeanours are attached to your record.


What Can I Do About It?

If you receive your DBS certificate and spot that something’s not right, then the first piece of advice is not to ignore it. You have three months from the date on which your certificate was issued to raise a dispute, although it’s probably better sooner rather than later. Keep your employer informed about what is going on; they may allow you to start work anyway but might ask you to obtain a corrected certificate first. Download the certificate dispute form from the government website and complete it giving as much information as possible. You have to tick the box stating what is wrong and giving details of the dispute.

If, for example, they’ve misspelled your surname, then it’s a simple matter of stating the correct name and supplying passport or other ID to back up your claim. This is perhaps the most common reasons for challenging a DBS certificate, as it’s so easy to make mistakes when doing data entry. If you are disputing criminal records or cautions give as much detail as you can about why you think they’ve got it wrong. There’s plenty of space on the form to write an explanation, so give as much information as you think is relevant.

If you choose not to dispute the information at all, then the risk is that it becomes harder to challenge next time round. The DBS will want to know why you had a previous opportunity to raise a dispute and chose not to do so. It could just mean that everything takes a lot longer to resolve.


Fingerprint Consent

After you have filled in the form and printed it off, you may also have to print off the fingerprint consent form. This doesn’t apply if you are asking for simple corrections of your surname or a typo in your address. If, however you are claiming that convictions don’t apply to you, then you will have to give fingerprint permission to the police.

After the DBS receive your application for correction, they will liaise with your local police force, and you’ll be asked to make an appointment to attend your nearest police station to have your prints taken. This might sound drastic, but it’s the easiest way to prove that you were not the person who committed the offence listed on the certificate. Everyone who is arrested and charged in the UK has their prints taken, so it’s easy for the police to compare your prints to those held on file. This all takes time though, and if you’ve an employer waiting patiently for a new certificate to be issued, it can be frustrating. Once the comparison procedure has been completed, any offences which don’t belong to you will be removed from your record. Your fingerprints are also destroyed at this point – many people worry that challenging a mistake on a DBS certificate will lead to their prints or even DNA being held on a police database, but this isn’t the case.