Criminal record checks in the aviation sector regulated by DfT

This publication was withdrawn on 22 June 2015

From 1 April 2014 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has responsibility for aviation security compliance functions.

Criminal record checks play a key role in your personnel security regime, both at the pre-employment stage and personnel security aftercare.




Criminal record checks can play a key role in your personnel security regime, both at the pre-employment stage and as a tool in personnel security aftercare.

The Department for Transport (DfT) requires a basic criminal record disclosure for certain roles. This shows unspent convictions only.

Who needs a criminal record check?

Potential employees – including non-British nationals – must have successfully passed a criminal record check (basic disclosure) before they can be employed in a role that requires a background check to be undertaken.

Current employees who hold an airport identification card must successfully pass a criminal record check (basic disclosure) on renewal of their airport identification card.

A criminal record check (basic disclosure) is required for someone to work:

  • unescorted in a security restricted area (SRA) at an airport, as they will need to hold an airport identification card issued by the airport manager
  • as a certified trainer
  • as a certified validator of known consignors
  • as the person responsible for security and its implementation at a regulated agents or known consignors site

Applicants will also require an equivalent overseas certificate for all countries in which they have lived continuously for 6 months or in the previous 5 years.

Repeating a criminal record check

As an employer, if your employee holds an airport identification card then you will be required by the airport manager to obtain a new criminal record certificate (basic disclosure) before they will renew an airport identification card.

Applicants for multiple airport identification cards

Anyone who wishes to apply to hold a permanent airport identification card at more than one airport will need to produce criminal record certificate documentation for each card application.

This can be the same criminal record certificate provided it is presented within 10 weeks from the date of issue.

Criminal record checks and counter terrorist checks

A criminal record check is also required as part of a Counter Terrorist Check (CTC), or higher level of National Security Vetting (NSV): however please note that this is a separate process.

Getting a criminal record check (basic disclosure) for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

You are required to ask prospective employees to obtain any criminal record certificate/s (basic disclosure) before they can successfully complete a background check for specified roles.

The basic disclosure

The UK criminal record basic disclosure certificate will show all convictions held which are unspent. Any spent convictions will not be shown on the certificate.

What are spent and unspent convictions?

Certain criminal convictions are ‘spent’ after a rehabilitation period as defined in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 1974. Most rehabilitation periods are halved if the individual was under 18 when convicted; some convictions never become spent.

Making an application

Applications for criminal record checks are made by individual employees, not by you as employer.

There are two ways of making applications for UK and Northern Ireland applicants:

  • each person who needs a disclosure can apply separately
  • you – as their employer – can send them in as a batch, as long as all the applicants have given permission

Applicants from England, Wales and Scotland should apply online to Disclosure Scotland for a basic disclosure certificate.

Applicants from Northern Ireland should apply via post to Access NI for a basic disclosure certificate.

The fee for each disclosure is currently 25 (GBP) from Disclosure Scotland, or 26 (GBP) from Access NI. This is normally paid by the employee but you can pay instead if you so wish. To arrange this, you will need to contact Disclosure Scotland on Tel 0870 609 6006 or Access NI on Tel 02890 259100.

Returned applications

Both Disclosure Scotland and Access NI normally return basic disclosure certificates in response to a fully valid application within 10 working days.

Applicants can choose to have their certificate sent to their employer’s address. If so, the envelope will be addressed to them. You, as their employer, must not open it. If you do so, any disclosures requested in the future will only be sent directly to the applicants at their home address.

The applicant can pass the criminal record certificate to anyone they choose. You, as the employer, will have to ask them for their certificate, and get permission from the applicant to pass it on to a third party (for example, in aviation, to the airport manager if necessary.

Overseas criminal record checks

As part of the criminal record check requirement in the regulated aviation industry only, overseas criminal record certificates are required for each country the applicant has been continuously resident in for 6 months or more, covering the previous 5 year period.

Applications in overseas countries vary and detailed advice for most countries can be found at:

If the country in which the applicant was based is not listed on either of the two websites, please contact that country’s Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in the UK for advice. Contact details can be found at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Applicants who cannot obtain an overseas criminal record check

In exceptional case cases such as official sources do not exist or they are unable to supply the individual with a certificate, the individual should be requested to provide:

  • a sworn oath
  • a character reference from a suitable referee
  • evidence as to why it is not possible to obtain the criminal record certificate. This may be because a government’s administration has collapsed to a point where no credible official sources of information exist, or there is a risk to the individual’s personal safety if they make contact with that country

The information provided should be checked for accuracy and authenticity.

Suitable referees

Employers may wish to consider taking into account the following factors:

  • has the person known the applicant for a reasonable period of time (say 2 years)?
  • are they resident in the UK?
  • do they hold a British or Irish passport and/or a National Identity card?
  • are they related to the applicant by birth, adoption, marriage or living together as husband and wife?
  • do they live at the same address as the applicant?

Overseas criminal record checks for former members of HM Forces

If you have served overseas with HM Armed Forces in the last 5 years you will need to provide an extract from your service records. The extract must expressly disclose any convictions you may have, and should cover periods spent overseas of 6 months or more.

Details are contained on the security industry authority.

Relevant offences

Anyone who has a criminal records check (basic disclosure) which reveals they hold an unspent disqualifying conviction, or equivalent overseas conviction, will not be able to pass a background check.

This means that the individual will not be granted a permanent airport identification card.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 1974, for the UK and Northern Ireland

Having a criminal record does not automatically mean that someone will not be able to successfully pass a background check. This may be illegal under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, and in some cases would not be desirable or practical.

Disqualifying offences

Employers will assess any overseas information in conjunction with the disqualifying convictions list and associated guidance.

The lists of disqualifying criteria have been drawn up by the Department for Transport (DfT), in consultation with the aviation industry and police.

For aviation, disqualifying offences are listed separately. For all other modes of transport, separate lists of disqualifying convictions are used for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Appealing against a disqualifying offence

If the results of a criminal records check (basic disclosure) prevent the individual from receiving the required clearance then there are several options for appeal:

Step 1

Appeal direct to the body that provided the disclosure certificate (Disclosure Scotland or Access NI) if the applicant believes that the convictions shown are not theirs or that the record is not theirs, or that the conviction shown should be spent.

Step 2

Use existing company grievance procedures where an employer has decided not to forward an application to a security clearance issuer because it believes that the disclosure shows that the applicant has a disqualifying conviction.

In aviation, this includes where, as employer, you have decided not to forward an airport identification card application to the card issuer because you believe that the disclosure shows that the applicant has a disqualifying conviction.

Step 3

Where there exists a separate security clearance or pass issuer, use appeals procedures operated by that issuer (in the regulated aviation sector this would be the airport manager). This should be handled by an independent appeals officer who is not connected with the original decision and has the authority to confirm or overrule the original decision.

Step 4

Apply to the Department for Transport (DfT) for a ‘Certificate of disregard‘ if the applicant has a disqualifying conviction which they feel should be disregarded for the purposes of confirming a background check and issuing the necessary clearance (including a full airport identification card) for the specified role.

The procedure for applying for a ‘Certificate of disregard’ is as follows:


An applicant whose criminal record certificate has revealed an unspent disqualifying conviction(s), and who wishes for his case to be considered by the Secretary of State for Transport through DfT, shall provide DfT with information in support of his application for a ‘Certificate of disregard’. The information shall include the valid criminal record certificate and any documentation available from the criminal trial that led to the disqualifying conviction(s). It may also include a note from the pass applicant’s solicitor, trade union or other representative.

The documentation shall include a character reference, which may be from a sponsoring employer or any person or body whom the applicant considers is relevant and is of suitable standing. The character reference should state when the referee became aware of the pass applicant’s conviction(s), (if from an employer it should be from someone with direct management responsibility for the applicant and should state the date upon which the pass applicant commenced work for the employer or is due to commence work), the referee’s experience of the applicant in terms of his overall integrity, and anything else which reflects upon the applicant’s suitability to hold a full pass.

The application may contain any other information that the applicant considers relevant in demonstrating his or her good character before/since the conviction(s). It shall be submitted under cover of the form attached to this appendix.


The applicant should forward the application, and supporting documentation detailed at Step 1, to:

Vetting Team
Department for Transport
Zone 2/26
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road


DfT will reach a view on whether the disqualifying conviction(s) may be disregarded for the purposes of a full pass being issued by the airport manager/pass issuer. Unspent convictions for offences that involve violence, dishonesty or abuse of trust are disqualifying offences as they can indicate that the individual’s behaviour makes him or her vulnerable to pressure or improper influence or liable to commit a breach of security. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 determines when a conviction becomes ‘spent’; for example, a sentence of a fine or compensation will normally become spent 5 years from the date of the conviction, so long as no other convictions have since been received. Only unspent convictions will be considered in determining the issue of a full pass or a ‘Certificate of disregard’. DfT will consider the information supplied by the pass applicant and the relevant circumstances of the case, including (but not limited to) the age of the conviction(s) and its seriousness. DfT may need to request additional information from the applicant, such as more details about the conviction.


Where DfT does not require additional information from the pass applicant in order to determine an application, it will endeavour to issue a determination letter to the pass applicant within 28 days of the application to disregard a conviction(s) being received, or will contact the applicant within the 28-day period to inform the applicant as to when he or she can expect a reply. Notice of the decision will be given to the applicant. Where a decision is made that the disqualifying conviction may be disregarded, a ‘Certificate of disregard’ will be issued to the pass applicant. The ‘Certificate of disregard’ will state that the disqualifying conviction(s) may be permanently disregarded for the purposes of issuing a full pass.


In the event that DfT decides that, in the circumstances, the disqualifying convictions(s) should not be disregarded, reasons for refusing to issue a ‘Certificate of disregard’ will be given in the determination letter. The individual has a right to appeal to a higher authority within DfT if he or she disputes the reason for refusal. Details of how and to whom to appeal will be notified to the applicant in the event that his or her application is refused. Any appeal shall be lodged within 28 days of notification of refusal.


  • where a valid criminal record certificate shows an unspent disqualifying conviction(s), a full pass may not be issued unless a ‘Certificate of disregard’ has been issued by DfT authorising that the conviction(s) may be disregarded. Neither shall a temporary pass be issued in the interim.
  • a criminal record certificate is valid for up to ten weeks from the date of issue, but the period during which DfT is determining an application for a ‘Certificate of disregard’ (and during any subsequent appeal) will not count towards the 10 weeks.

Retention rules, validity periods and renewal procedures

Criminal record disclosure certificates are the property of the individual who applies for them, and to whom the information relates. That person can choose to keep the disclosure for as long as they wish, or to destroy it.

If you, as their employer, want to retain their disclosure certificate – or keep a copy of it – you must get their permission. If they agree to you doing so, you must store the document in a secure environment so that only individuals with a legitimate reason to see the disclosure can do so.

If you do not retain the certificate, you must keep a record of the disclosure number shown at the top of the certificate, or other such identifier, and the date of issue.

How often can a disclosure be applied for?

There are no limits to how often a basic disclosure can be applied for, but the full fee will have to be paid each time.

How long is the disclosure valid for?

As an employer, you should bear in mind that the information in the disclosure is only as current as the day on which it is issued.

Disclosures do not carry a pre-determined period of validity because a conviction or other matter could be recorded against the person who has obtained the disclosure at any time after it is issued, e.g. the following day.

The Department for Transport (DfT) advises that disclosure certificates including those issued overseas, can be considered valid for up to 10 weeks from the date of issue. This does not include any period that DfT is considering an application for a certificate of disregard or subsequent appeal.

If an overseas criminal record certificate is more that 10 weeks old but that person has not returned to that country since the date of issue (the date of issue can be up to 10 weeks prior to their date of departure) then that certificate will be deemed valid.

Renewing a criminal record disclosure

In aviation, a criminal record check (basic disclosure) certificate needs to be renewed at the same time as the airport identification card is renewed. It is up to airport managers to decide how long permanent airport identification cards are valid for, but this cannot be longer than 5 years.

Disqualifying offences after a criminal records disclosure is made

There is no warning system in place to notify an employer about convictions made against an employee already in post who has previously successfully undergone a criminal record check (basic disclosure) and background check. In aviation, this includes for those currently holding an airport identification card.

The Department for Transport (DfT) recommends that employers should consider inserting a condition in employment contracts that requires employees to inform them if they are convicted of a disqualifying offence between any new disclosure.

In aviation, airport managers are advised to withdraw any airport identification card they issue to any person if they are no longer satisfied that the person is fit to hold the card.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 criminal convictions can become spent or ignored after a rehabilitation period, although they remain on the Police National Computer. The rehabilitation period varies depending on the sentence or order imposed by the court – not the offence. Custodial sentences of more than two and half years can never become spent. The following sentences become spent after fixed periods from the date of conviction:

Sentence Rehabilitation period age 18 or over when convicted Rehabilitation period age 17 or under when convicted
Prison sentences of 6 months or less, including suspended sentences, youth custody (abolished in 1988) and detention in a young offender institution 7 years 3 and half years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months to 2 and half years, including suspended sentences, youth custody (abolished in 1988) and detention in a young offender institution 10 years 5 years
Borstal (abolished in 1983) 7 years 7 years
Detention Centres (abolished in 1988) 3 years 3 years
Fines (even if subsequently imprisoned for fine default), compensation, probation (for convictions on or after 3 February 1995), community service, combination, action plan, curfew, drug treatment and testing and reparation orders 5 years 2 and half years
Absolute discharge 6 months 6 months

With some sentences, the rehabilitation period varies:

Sentence Rehabilitation period
Conditional discharge or bind-over, probation (for convictions before 3 February 1995), supervision, care-orders 1 year or until the order expires (whichever is longer)
Attendance centre orders 1 year after the order expires
Hospital orders )with or without a restriction order) 5 years or 2 years after the order expires (whichever is longer)
Referral Order Once the order expires