At the end of November 2020, an important change in the Disclosure process for England and Wales came into effect. The new order is a major shake-up on the way in which youth cautions, warnings or reprimands are handled by the Disclosure and Barring Service, and also changed the “multiple conviction rule”. The hope is that the change in the law will allow more people to get back into work, leaving minor transgressions in the past behind them.


Why the Changes?

These recent changes stem for a case heard in England’s Supreme Court back in January 2019. The people bringing the case had received very minor convictions in the distant past for crimes such as stealing a sandwich or not wearing their seatbelt in a car. These offences had been disclosed to prospective employers. The case was brought under Human Rights legislation, and the Court found that the previous rule which said that the DBS had to reveal any multiple convictions irrespective of seriousness was unfair.


Government Response

In the summer of 2020, the government issued its response to the Supreme Court ruling and agreed to introduce a new system which aimed to maintain the balance between protecting vulnerable groups in society and making sure that people who have minor criminal offences are not affected disproportionately.

There have been several changes to the letter of the law around youth convictions for DBS checks which can be broken down as follows:

  • Youth Cautions – cautions received under the age of 18, along with conditional cautions, warnings or reprimands will no longer be automatically listed on standard or enhanced DBS certificates. Decisions about whether to disclose are made on a case by case basis.
  • Multiple Convictions – the previous rule about listing all multiple convictions, whatever they were for, has also been dropped.


Minor Convictions Only

The main thing to consider in all of this is that the DBS and Police are talking about minor convictions only, which in very basic terms means something which did not result in a prison sentence, or suspended sentence. These more serious offences may never be “spent” according to existing Rehabilitation law and won’t be filtered out from police checks. Current rules state that a crime resulting in a prison or suspended sentence is not spent for 11 years. If the person convicted was under 18, then this drops to 5 and half years. This hasn’t changed. Remember too that convictions and cautions which are normally considered as spent might still appear on an enhanced or standard DBS check, if the police think they are relevant.

Enhanced and Standard disclosures can only be requested when the applicant has applied for a restricted list of jobs, defined by law. Usually these are thought of as jobs in healthcare and education, but also include some financial services and legal roles. On a basic disclosure, spend convictions are never disclosed. Your employer should be aware of the type of disclosure required for a particular role.