Problems with the filtering of conditional cautions

Conditional cautions like simple cautions may be filtered from standard and enhanced DBS certificates after 6 years, providing you’ve not been cautioned for a non-filterable offence.

However, our helpline has been contacted recently by several people who’ve had conditional cautions which are eligible for filtering disclosed on their enhanced DBS certificate as a  conviction. Further investigations by Unlock have revealed that this is due to the way in which conditional cautions are recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC); as a conviction rather than a caution. Therefore, instead of being eligible for filtering after 6 years, the DBS filtering system doesn’t consider them to be eligible for 11 years.

This anomaly has resulted in several individuals having difficulties in either getting or keeping a job.

Example one

Mr D received a conditional caution in 2009 which was eligible for filtering in 2015. Although he’d always worked successfully as a teacher despite having to disclose his conditional caution, he was delighted to be able to apply for a teaching role without having to disclose it. However, on receipt of his enhanced certificate, his conditional caution had been disclosed as a conviction and his employers threatened to dismiss him as they considered his failure to disclose as a breach of trust.

Example two

Mr E’s conditional caution was eligible for filtering in April 2016 but had been disclosed on a recent enhanced DBS certificate under the convictions section. Although Mr E had raised the issue with the DBS Dispute Service, he believed that his job offer was likely to be withdrawn due to the length of time the check had taken.

Example three

Knowing that her conditional caution was eligible for filtering in May 2016, Ms D did not disclose it to her new employer after being offered a teaching assistant job at her local school. She was horrified to see the conditional caution on her enhanced certificate and immediately raised a query with the DBS. However, as she was unable to start work without the certificate, she was extremely worried that the school would withdraw the job offer.

Example four

Ms R’s conditional caution appeared on her enhanced DBS certificate despite being eligible for filtering in August 2015. As the conditional caution appeared in the conviction section on the certificate, her new employers had raised questions about the non-disclosure of the ‘conviction’ and were minded to revoke the job offer unless she was able to provide them with a ‘blank’ certificate.

Raising a query with the DBS

In all the above cases, the individuals raised a data query with the DBS and were able to get a new DBS certificate with the conditional caution removed. However, all of them suffered unnecessary stress and anxiety as a result of their conditional cautions being disclosed and, in some cases, their employers becoming aware of something that they shouldn’t have had any knowledge of.

We’ve raised this issue with the DBS but we’re keen to hear from anybody that has had a similar problem with a filtered conditional caution appearing on their standard or enhanced DBS certificate. Please send your examples to

If you’re applying for a job but believe you’ve got a conditional caution which is eligible for filtering, make sure you request the certificate is sent to you. If the caution does appear, you’ll be able to raise a query with the DBS before your employer’s have sight of it.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on filtering and criminal record checks for employment
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.
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Debbie Sadler