Protected Cautions & Convictions – DBS Check Filtering Guide

Understanding DBS checks and how they treat protected cautions and convictions can be a source of confusion. If you need a pre employment check, you may feel anxious about your criminal record. Protected information will be filtered from your DBS, meaning that a prospective employer will not be able to see it.

It is one of those topics that can appear more obscure the further you delve into it. However, we have done the hard work for you by creating a DBS filtering guide. This guide will help you understand what information from a criminal record will be filtered, and what will be visible during the DBS process.

Many places of employment with a level of responsibility require their staff to have a background check carried out. Perhaps you are applying to work with vulnerable children or adults, or will be handling sensitive data. Some job roles cannot be fulfilled until the employer has sought out a criminal background check on each individual.

It can seem a little overwhelming trying to understand just what will and will not show up on a DBS. However, our guide cuts out all the confusion and gives clear access to the facts.

About DBS Checks & What They Show Up

You may have heard the term CRB or DBS which in itself causes some confusion. However, they are both the same thing – CRB is the old term for it, before it became DBS back in 2012.

Some people still hold a CRB. These are still valid but, anyone new to the process will apply through the DBS site.

DBS checks come in 4 levels which are: Basic, Standard, Enhanced and Enhanced with Barred List(s).

Your employer will know which one is needed for your role. Each of them will be more detailed than the last. For instance, a basic check, which you can apply for yourself, will contain only unspent cautions and convictions.

The other levels can show up unspent and spent cautions and convictions if the information isn’t eligible for filtering.

So what is filtering?

What is Filtering on a DBS Check?

The above may seem quite straightforward. But it is when the topic of filtering crops up that confusion can creep in.

The government uses the term “filtering” to describe the process used to decide which criminal records will be disclosed on a DBS check. Filtering was introduced in 2013 and then further rules around this  were imposed in 2020.

The newer rules from 2020 have implications for what will automatically be disclosed on a check. They mean not all cautions and convictions will show. These are considered against a set of guidelines that the DBS process is based on. The criteria includes the nature of the crime, the sentence served, and how long ago it happened.

Some convictions become protected, meaning they willl no longer be on a shown DBS check after a qualifying time frame. These convictions are filtered.

What is A Protected Caution or Conviction?

A protected caution or conviction gives an individual the right to some filtering when it comes to certain offences. That means they won’t show up on a DBS check.

Not all crimes can be protected. Some will always show up on a background check regardless of the time the crime took place.

However, some minor offences can be filtered after a set timeframe providing it meets the requirements for this process. The list is very extensive but some of the more common offences eligible for filtering are listed below.

  • Common assault
  • Shoplifting
  • Drunk and disorderly
  • Possession of Class B drugs
  • Drink driving with a sentence of less than 48 months custody.
  • Soliciting
  • Some drug supply offences

How to Understand if your Caution or Conviction is Protected

There will always be some crimes that can never be filtered and will always show up on a background check. This is because they are deemed as more serious crimes and not minor like in other cases.

If the crime that has been committed is on the list of offences that must be disclosed then this will remain the case indefinitely.

Offences that will never be filtered include:-

  • Safeguarding crimes
  • Sexual offences
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorist offences
  • Incitement
  • Use of nuclear weapons
  • Trafficking
  • Abduction
  • Murder

Both of the above lists are just a few examples. In terms of convictions which will always be reported, there is a full list which is available to view on the UK Government website.

Do I Have to Declare a Protected Caution or Conviction?

You want to be sure you are following all the correct procedures when it comes to declaring protected cautions or convictions.

Legally, if your caution or conviction is on the protected list then no, you do not need to declare them after the eligible time has passed.

You may feel morally obliged to tell your employer about things from your past and that is OK too. Most employers will feel a sense of respect for your honesty. They all have a recruitment process to follow which keeps it fair for everyone.

At one time, all crimes would be listed on a check, no matter how minor but this was challenged in court. Consequently, the law was changed and now certain crimes won’t show up on a report. Crimes that are protected must remain this way which means employers cannot ask for this information.

This gives everyone the chance they deserve for the position they are applying for without being disadvantaged due to events in the past.

Further Reading


Is common assault a protected caution?

Common assault is a protected caution and is eligible for removal from a DBS check. However, this does depend on the charges and time that has lapsed.

Are convictions protected if you had a custodial sentence?

Some convictions may be considered spent after the eligible period of time has lapsed. This is known as the rehabilitation period and certain crimes will be considered protected if they meet the criteria.

Are cautions protected in an enhanced DBS?

If eligible, cautions will be protected on an enhanced DBS which means it will not be disclosed. It is important to remember, however, that these records are not wiped from the police records.

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