The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) exists to help companies across the UK make safer recruitment decisions. This is done through a DBS check, formerly known as a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check.
An individual may need to complete a DBS check at the request of an employer, depending on the role they are applying for. This is growing increasingly common in the UK for the majority of roles, and is a requirement by many governing bodies such as Ofsted for teachers.
These criminal record checks disclose information that helps employers determine whether an applicant is suitable for a role. A DBS check application will disclose information which a prospective employer may need to consider before they make a hire. This includes specific police cautions, some of which will be filtered if not relevant.
This short guide outlines which cautions appear on a DBS application, how the DBS filtering process works and how long a caution lasts.
What does a DBS Check Show?
The three types of DBS check are as follows:
The level of information disclosed depends on which DBS check is required for the role. Basic disclosure reveals only unspent convictions or cautions, while a Standard and Enhanced DBS check application will show details of spent and unspent convictions, reprimands, warnings and cautions.
The only other exceptions are:
- An Enhanced DBS will reveal any other information held by a local police force that’s considered relevant to the application.
- If a barred list check is required with the Enhanced DBS application, it will disclose whether an applicant is on either the children’s or adults’ barred lists.
DBS Filtering Rules 
The UK government introduced the DBS filtering system in 2013 which meant that certain cautions and convictions would not show on a DBS check.
DBS filtering identifies and removes certain offences from the check, but that doesn’t mean it will be removed from police databases. Simply put, when an applicant has applied for a DBS check, some caution or conviction information simply won’t show up.
Employers aren’t allowed to take minor offences into account, or ones which happened a long time ago, when making decisions about a prospective applicant.
Which Cautions and Convictions are Filtered from a DBS Check?
Single cautions or convictions which didn’t result in a custodial or suspended sentence are eligible for filtering. The particular offence must be eligible and a certain period of time must have elapsed.
Some offences which are eligible for filtering include:
- Theft without violence
- Drug offences (which only involve possession)
- Drunk and disorderly
- Several driving offences
- Common assault
Safeguarding offences, drug offences (which involve supplying) as well as violent or sexual offences are not eligible for filtering. Therefore, cautions for these offences will show up on a DBS check.
For a full list of offences, please refer to the DBS’ official website here.
Automatic DBS Check Disclosure Changes [2021 Update]
Multiple convictions can be filtered on a DBS certificate, as long as the offences were eligible and the relevant time has passed. But the only eligible cautions were offences which didn’t result in a suspended or custodial sentence.
This ostensibly meant that if you had multiple convictions, all of them would appear on a DBS check.
The government announced new changes to the DBS check disclosure regime on the 28th November 2020 whereby multiple convictions would no longer be automatically disclosed on Standard and Enhanced DBS checks. They also announced that youth cautions, warnings or reprimands would be removed from automatic DBS disclosure.
For more information on this ruling, please contact Online DBS Checks directly.
How Long does a Caution Stay on a DBS Check?
A caution stays on a person’s criminal record for a certain number of years, depending on the age of the offender and the nature of the offence.
- If a person is under the age of 18, cautions can last on their criminal record for two years.
- If an adult offender is given a caution, a caution can stay on a DBS certificate for around six years.
We hope this guide has helped you regarding DBS check cautions and filtering guidelines. It’s worth remembering for applicants, if you have a caution which is eligible for filtering, you do not have to disclose this to a new employer.