We’ve produced specific information to help you understand what you might need to know at each stage of your criminal justice journey. This page is focused on anybody who’s just received a caution. It forms part of our series on the seven stages of a criminal record.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, cautions become spent immediately and will therefore not be disclosed on a basic DBS check. However, they will always be disclosed on standard and enhanced DBS checks unless they are eligible for filtering.
Although a caution is ‘spent’ immediately under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, it does form part of your criminal record and can come up on certain criminal record checks. If you’re currently employed or looking to work in a role that requires a standard or enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check then you’ll always need to disclose your caution to an employer or college/university unless it’s eligible for filtering.
Accepting a caution can affect your ability to travel and work outside the European Union with some countries reserving the right to refuse entry visas.
The evidence required by the police to issue a caution is the same as would be required to take a case to court. If you refuse to accept a caution, the police could decide to refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service who may decide to charge you and take you to court.
Cautions are often seen as a quick way for the police to deal with people who have not been in trouble before to avoid having to take them to court.
However, before accepting a caution, seek legal advice from a solicitor. It may be possible for the police to deal with you in another way, for example by issuing you with a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND) or a Community Resolution Order.
If you’re currently employed or looking to work in a role that is exempt from the ROA, a caution will always be disclosed on a standard or enhanced DBS certificate unless it is eligible for filtering.
If you accept a caution for an offence under Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, this will also result in your being placed on the Sex Offenders Register for two years and possibly barred from working in regulated activity.
Irrespective of the type of offence you were cautioned for, an entry on a standard or enhanced DBS certificate may result in you being refused a job, particularly where you’re applying for a role with one of the more risk averse employers (for example in a school or hospital). Providing you’re not barred from working with certain groups, many employers will, quite rightly, view cautions as a minor disposal and will be happy to disregard them.
If you’re already working in an exempt role when you receive a caution, you should check on your contract of employment whether you need to disclose it to your employer. If you do and you’ve been working for your employer for some time, then it’s probably unlikely to result in your being dismissed unless the caution is relevant to the work that you’re doing.
Colleges and universities usually only ask applicants to disclose unspent cautions/convictions. However, if you’re considering applying for a course which would involve working with children or vulnerable adults and where an enhanced DBS check would be required, then you would need to disclose your caution. Depending on the nature of the offence, you may be asked to sit a risk assessment board and you may be refused entry onto a course.
If you believe that you’re likely to be refused entry onto a course but your caution would be eligible for filtering in the future, then you may wish to consider delaying your studies until you no longer need to disclose your caution.
If you’re looking to travel or work overseas it’s possible that you’ll need to apply for a visa along with a police certificate. This certificate will include details of all cautions and convictions unless they are eligible to be ‘stepped down’. Depending on the nature of the offence, the disclosure of a caution may result in your visa being refused.
Prior to 2006, the police could delete some records after a specific period of time but, following the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders new retention and deletion guidelines were agreed with individual’s records being retained until their 100th birthday.
If you have been cautioned for a recordable offence then it will be recorded on the Police National Computer and will form part of your criminal record. You can find out what’s been recorded about you on the PNC by applying for a copy of your police records. This process is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR).