Guidance

Telling people about your criminal record

This guide helps you work out what information to give people if they ask about your criminal record.

Introduction

Your criminal record includes all:

  • cautions given by the police
  • convictions given at court

You might be asked about your criminal record when you apply for:

  • a job
  • education or training
  • insurance
  • a licence

Most convictions are followed by a rehabilitation period.

After the rehabilitation period has ended, the conviction becomes ‘spent’. You do not need to tell anyone about a spent conviction unless you’re applying for a job where a standard or enhanced criminal record check is needed.

There are different rehabilitation periods in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What information you need to give people

You only have to tell people about your criminal record if they ask you.

The amount of information you need to give depends on the application you’re making. For example, some jobs (such as those involving children or vulnerable people) need a detailed check of your criminal history, including some spent cautions and convictions.

If you do not give people the information they’ve asked for, they might be able to find it out by checking your criminal record.

If a criminal record check reveals information that you have not given someone, it could lead to:

  • an employer withdrawing a job offer
  • an insurance company not paying for a claim you’ve made

Criminal record checks and when they’re needed

Criminal record checks are usually done through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The 4 types of DBS check are:

  • basic
  • standard
  • enhanced
  • enhanced with barred list

You should be told which type of DBS check is needed so that you can work out what information will appear on the DBS certificate.

Some spent cautions and convictions are ‘protected’ and will not show on a DBS certificate.

Basic DBS checks

A basic DBS check only shows cautions and convictions that are not spent.

Any employer can ask for a basic DBS check. Jobs where a basic check might be asked for include:

  • bartender
  • office worker
  • shop assistant

You can request a basic DBS check if you need to find out which of your cautions or convictions are not spent. It costs £25.

Standard DBS checks

A standard DBS check shows all convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings, even if they’re spent.

Jobs where a standard check might be asked for include:

  • accountant
  • locksmith
  • traffic warden

Enhanced DBS checks

An enhanced DBS check shows the same information as a standard check but also includes any information held by the police that they think is relevant to your application.

Jobs where an enhanced check might be asked for include:

  • driving instructor
  • librarian
  • taxi driver

Enhanced with barred list DBS checks

An enhanced with barred list check shows the same information as an enhanced check but also tells employers if you’ve been barred from doing the role you’re applying for.

Jobs where an enhanced check might be asked for include:

  • carer
  • doctor
  • teacher

Check when cautions and convictions become spent

The following tables give general guidance about when cautions and convictions become spent. If you’re not sure what information you need to give people, you can seek legal advice.

If you have more than one conviction you can read some examples to help you work out when they all become spent.

Cautions

Cautions are official warnings given by the police. Conditional cautions include certain rules that you need to stick to.

If you were under 18 when cautioned

Caution When it becomes spent
Youth caution On the date the caution is given
Youth conditional caution - conditions lasting less than 3 months On the date the conditions end
Youth conditional caution - conditions lasting 3 months or more 3 months after the date the caution is given

If you were 18 or over when cautioned

Caution When it becomes spent
Conditional caution - conditions lasting less than 3 months On the date the conditions end
Conditional caution - conditions lasting 3 months or more 3 months after the date the caution is given
Simple caution On the date the caution is given

Community and youth rehabilitation orders

A community order or youth rehabilitation order (YRO) is given instead of a prison sentence. Sometimes a tag needs to be worn.

If no end date is given for your community order or YRO, it becomes spent 2 years after the date you were given the order.

If you were under 18 when convicted

Youth order When it becomes spent
Alcohol abstinence 6 months after the end of the order
Alcohol treatment 6 months after the end of the order
Curfew 6 months after the end of the order
Drug rehabilitation 6 months after the end of the order
Exclusion requirement 6 months after the end of the order
Mental health treatment 6 months after the end of the order
Referral order On the last day of the order
Unpaid work 6 months after the end of the order

If you were 18 or over when convicted

Community order When it becomes spent
Alcohol abstinence 1 year after the end of the order
Alcohol treatment 1 year after the end of the order
Behavioural change programme 1 year after the end of the order
Curfew 1 year after the end of the order
Drug rehabilitation 1 year after the end of the order
Electronic monitoring requirement 1 year after the end of the order
Exclusion requirement 1 year after the end of the order
Foreign travel prohibition 1 year after the end of the order
Mental health treatment 1 year after the end of the order
Prohibition 1 year after the end of the order
Rehabilitation activity requirement (RAR) 1 year after the end of the order
Residence requirement 1 year after the end of the order
Unpaid work 1 year after the end of the order

Discharges

A discharge is when you’re found guilty but you’re not given a sentence, unless any conditions are broken.

Conviction When it becomes spent
Absolute discharge On the date of conviction
Bind over - with end date On the last day of the order
Bind over - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Conditional discharge order - with end date On the last day of the order
Conditional discharge order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction

Fines and compensation orders

A fine or compensation order is a ruling from court that you must pay someone after a crime.

If you were under 18 when convicted

Order When it becomes spent
Compensation order When the compensation has been fully paid (DBS must be sent proof of payment)
Fine 6 months after the date of conviction

If you were 18 or over when convicted

Order When it becomes spent
Compensation order When the compensation has been fully paid (DBS must be sent proof of payment)
Fine 1 year after the date of conviction

Hospital orders

Hospital orders are given instead of prison sentences if there are medical concerns, for example mental health.

Order When it becomes spent
Hospital order - with end date On the date the order ends
Hospital order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction

Military convictions

Military sentences can only be given to people serving in the British armed forces.

If you were under 18 when convicted

Military conviction When it becomes spent
Dismissal 6 months after the date of conviction
Overseas community order - with end date 6 months after the date of conviction
Overseas community order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Service community order - with end date 6 months after the date of conviction
Service community order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Service detention 6 months after the date of conviction

If you were 18 or over when convicted

Military conviction When it becomes spent
Dismissal 1 year after the date of conviction
Overseas community order - with end date 1 year after the end of the order
Overseas community order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Service community order - with end date 1 year after the end of the order
Service community order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Service detention 1 year after the date of conviction

Prevention and reparation orders

Prevention and reparation orders help people change their behaviour.

Order When it becomes spent
Attendance centre order - if you were under 25 when convicted 1 year after the end of the order
Attendance centre order - if you were 25 or over when convicted At the end of the order
Reparation order On the date of conviction
Restraining order - with end date At the end of the order
Restraining order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Sexual harm prevention order - with end date At the end of the order
Sexual harm prevention order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction
Supervision order - with end date At the end of the order
Supervision order - with no end date 2 years after the date of conviction

Prison sentences and detention orders

Prison sentences and detention orders are also known as custodial sentences. Some sentences are suspended unless the terms of the sentence are broken.

The time it takes for a prison or detention sentence to become spent includes the entire length of the sentence you were given in court, even if you were released:

  • early
  • on temporary licence
  • on parole
  • under supervision

If you were under 18 when sentenced

Sentence When it becomes spent
Detention and training order (DTO) - 6 months or less 18 months after the sentence ends
Detention and training order (DTO) - over 6 months 2 years after the sentence ends
Detention - less than 6 months 18 months after the sentence ends
Detention - 6 months to less than 30 months 2 years after the sentence ends
Detention - 30 months to 4 years 3.5 years after the sentence ends
Detention - over 4 years Never

If you were 18 or over when sentenced

Sentence When it becomes spent
Prison sentence - less than 6 months 2 years after the sentence ends
Prison sentence - 6 months to less than 30 months 4 years after the sentence ends
Prison sentence - 30 months to 4 years 7 years after the sentence ends
Prison sentence - over 4 years Never
Suspended prison sentence - less than 6 months 2 years after the sentence ends
Suspended prison sentence - 6 months to 2 years 4 years after the sentence ends

Getting a copy of your criminal record

You have the right to ask the police for any information they hold on you, including:

  • cautions
  • convictions
  • final warnings
  • reprimands

Asking for this information is known as a subject access request. It’s free to make a request and it will take up to one calendar month for the information to be sent to you.

Published 12 July 2019
Last updated 18 July 2019 + show all updates
  1. Moved prison sentence tables to bottom so that they're in alpha order.
  2. First published.