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 news 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:

How can I find out whether my conviction/caution is 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 DBS disclosure?

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

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

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

In addition to my community order I received a restraining order. Will this make a difference to when my conviction becomes spent?

Possibly, especially if the restraining order is for a longer duration than the community order. See the link below:

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.

Is the Police National Computer (PNC) the only database used by the police to record details of your criminal record?

No. The police also use the Police National Database (PND) which holds records relating to criminal intelligence and domestic and child abuse. See the link below.

Will a conviction I received when I was living abroad appear on the UK PNC?

Possibly; it depends upon a number of different factors, for example whether the offence is a crime under UK law and if so, is it deemed to be recordable in the UK. See the links below.

I was arrested by the police but no further action was taken. Will this show on a criminal record check?

It wouldn’t appear on basic or standard DBS certificates but it may be disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate if the police believe it to be relevant. See the link below.

Is it possible to have my convictions and relevant DNA details deleted?

Cautions and convictions remain on the PNC until you are 100 years old. However there are some situations where the police may destroy your biometric information (DNA and fingerprints). See the links below.

I was convicted of a sexual offence which is no longer illegal. Is it possible to have this removed from my criminal record?

Certain convictions for decriminalised consensual sexual offences can be removed from your record but you’ll need to apply to the Home Office. See the link below.

Is there any legislation which sets out how organisations should process, handle and store details of criminal records.

Yes. This is covered by the Data Protection Act. See the link below.


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.

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 DBS criminal record check but may be disclosed on an enhanced DBS 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. We have further information on motoring convictions and the ROA.
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. In March 2015, it became 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 of or cautioned for, 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 DBS 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.

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