Who is it issued by and how can I contact them?
Issued by the police – contact the administering force.
Does it involve guilt?
Yes – you have to make a clear and reliable admission and sign a form accepting the circumstances of the caution.
Is it recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC)?
Yes (especially if it relates to a recordable offence).
Is it classed as a conviction?
How long will it be on my record?
Information is retained on the Police National Computer. Cautions can be used in future criminal proceedings as evidence of character.
When does it become spent?
Simple cautions become spent immediately at the point of issue.
When do I have to declare it?
Simple cautions are covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act so you don’t have to disclose unless it is for an occupation which is an exception to the Act, like working with children.
Is it disclosed on DBS checks?
Yes, it is disclosed by both the standard and enhanced checks, unless it is eligible for filtering. It will not be disclosed on a basic check.
What guidance is there on fair process?
- CPS guidance on cautioning and diversion
- GOV.UK information on police cautions, warnings and penalty notices for minor crimes
- Ministry of Justice guidance on simple cautions for adult offenders.
Accepting a caution – what it means
According to Ministry of Justice guidelines, cautions are intended to deliver swift and effective justice, reducing the burden on the police and courts, while delivering a suitable deterrent effect.
A simple caution is a formal notice, issued by a police officer, once someone has admitted an offence. A conditional caution is similar but the person must also agree to stick to certain conditions which may include paying compensation to the victim or issuing an apology for the offence.
While a police caution is not technically classed as a criminal conviction, the details are retained by the police for future reference and can be taken into account by a magistrate or a judge if the person is convicted of a further offence in the future. Cautions may be disclosed to current or prospective employers and must be declared if the person is involved in certain roles such as working with children or vulnerable adults (unless it is filtered).
Accepting a caution can affect someone’s ability to travel and work outside the European Union, with some countries reserving the right to refuse entry visas.
Anyone who has accepted a caution for an offence involving violence could also find it difficult to apply for a shotgun licence.
Do I have the right to appeal and what is the process?
There is no formal process for rescinding a simple caution once it has been administered. If you wish to complain about the decision or how the case was handled you need to make a complaint to the Chief Constable or Commissioner of the administering force.
Each police force should be willing to receive requests for cautions to be ‘expunged’ as part of their ownership as Data Controllers of the PNC. However, this is only done in exceptional circumstances, particularly where a significant amount of time has passed since receiving the caution. This will be even more difficult if you received legal advice at the time of receiving the caution. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, if you did decide to try and have caution expunged/withdrawn then, then there is a risk that your earlier admission of guilt could be used as evidence if they decided to proceed with charge in lieu.
What are the implications for life in the community?
It is not a criminal conviction but it does form part of a criminal record so you will sometimes have to disclose when asked by employers; it will not affect your chances of getting a mortgage; you need not disclose to insurers.