When a DBS certificate is issued, not all convictions and cautions are revealed due to the DBS process of filtering. As you would expect, this has led to many employers and applicants wondering what the process entails and its implications.

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What is the process of filtering?

The process of filtering is a recent one. It came to fruition in 2013 following a high court case that questioned why all criminal record information should appear on DBS certificates, especially if incidents were minor and/or had been committed a long time ago. The outcome of the case determined that not all cautions and convictions should appear on a certificate following a DBS check.

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As a result, the DBS filtering process was initiated to limit the disclosure of offences if they met the predetermined criteria. These strict criteria vary in accordance with the type of offence committed, the age of the offender at the time of the offence, and whether they have other offences.

If cautions or convictions are withheld, they won’t appear on the certificate and neither will the certificate state that criminal information has been withheld. Although the information is withheld, this does not mean that a person’s criminal record has been discarded by the Police National Computer (PNC).

You can find out more about criminal records checks – including DBS checks – from Unlock, which is a charity for people with criminal convictions.

What are the implications for applicants?

With regard to applicants, the filtering process means that if they have a previous caution or conviction that qualifies for protection, it will be removed during the filtering process. They will therefore not have to declare this information to the employer, even if the employer asks about it.

What are the implications for employers?

The filtering process should not have any implications for employers, as any information protected is determined by legislation to be peripheral. Employers are not entitled to be notified of these offences via a DBS check.

Nevertheless, employers should be wary of how they question applicants with regard to their criminal records in relation to this legislation; for example, employers that are permitted to question an applicant on their criminal record must be careful not to ask for information protected by the filtering process.

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