Practical information & advice

Although convictions and cautions stay on the Police National Computer until you reach 100 years old (they are not deleted before then), they don’t always have to be disclosed. Many people don’t know the details of their record and it’s important to get this right before disclosing to employers. Usually, this means applying for a copy of your police record (it costs £10 and is known as a ‘Subject Access Request’).

Taken from our top 10 things to know:

Read our latest information and advice posts about understanding your criminal record



Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to understanding your criminal record.

How do I find out about my criminal record?

There are various ways you can find out about your criminal record. How you choose to go about it will depend on what you need to know. Useful links include:

Is my conviction/caution spent?

Providing you have the date of your caution/conviction and the details of your disposal/sentence, you should be able to work this out for yourself. Useful links include:

Will my conviction/caution be disclosed on a basic disclosure?

It will only be disclosed if it’s unspent. Useful links include:

Why does my spent conviction/caution still show on my DBS check?

A DBS check will disclose all cautions and convictions unless they are eligible for filtering from the certificate. Useful links include:

I received a particular sentence/disposal – what does it mean?

We have put together a list of sentences/disposals which sets out their meaning and the rehabilitation period. See the link below.

I want to understand more about criminal records

We have a lot of information on our website to help you understand your criminal record. Useful links include:



Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on understanding your criminal record. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions.

  • If you were convicted many years ago, it’s possible that it might not even be on your police record. Before you start disclosing, you should check whether they will come back by getting a copy of your police record.
  • If the reason you’re disclosing is because a job or role involves a basic check (or could at some point), then you might want to double-check what would come back by getting your own basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland.


Frequently asked questions

Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get about understanding your criminal record and the answers to generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s are included in the information pages above.

Generally, an offence that could result in imprisonment is classed as a recordable offence. There are also some more minor summary offences that are designated as recordable. Non-recordable offences are usually held on local police records.

The Police National Computer (PNC) stores details of people who have been cautioned or convicted of a recordable offence. It also holds details of all UK registered vehicles. More information on retention and deletion can be found here.

The Police National Database (PND) is a national information management system that improves the ability of the police service to manage and share intelligence and other operational policy to prevent and detect crime and make communities safer. The PND gives the police the capacity to share, access and search local information electronically.

Yes, if they relate to a recordable offence. However, they are recorded in such a way that they do not form part of your criminal record but can be accessible for police information. They would not be disclosed on a basic or standard criminal record check but may be disclosed on an enhanced certificate if they were deemed by the police to be relevant.
If the offence would be recorded on the Police National Computer and not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, then you would need to disclose it. You would not have to disclose it once it was spent unless you were applying for a standard or enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.
No. A ‘Subject Access Request’ is not a disclosure. It is simply an advisory record sent by the police to you. If you were to provide this to an employer then it is likely that they would see more information about your criminal record than they are legally allowed to have. From March 2015, it will be a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act for employers to ask employees to provide this.
No, you are the only one who can apply. The Subject Access Request (SAR) entitles you to exercise your rights to obtain information that is held about you under the Data Protection Act 1998.
If you accept responsibility for the offence that you were convicted or caution of, then it is unlikely that you will be able to get it removed. Cautions and convictions do not get ‘wiped’ . Find out more about retention and deletion of police cautions and convictions here.

If you dispute your guilt, you should seek legal advice about whether you can appeal against the conviction or caution (although there are normally quite strict time limits on this type of appeal)

Although cautions and convictions are not wiped, they might not be disclosed. It depends on the type of check, but spent convictions are not disclosed on basic checks, and filtered cautions/convictions are not disclosed on standard or enhanced checks.


Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to understanding your criminal record that we refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.

Read personal stories

The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.


Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences of this on our online forum.

Key sections include:


Help us with our policy work on this

Read more about the policy work we’re doing on stopping enforced access requests.