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Criminal Record Check

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Not All Criminal Record Checks are Created Equal

Whether your hiring program is specific to one location or you’re onboarding candidates from all around the world, getting a complete picture of an applicant’s criminal history can be more complex than you might think. At Sterling, we make it easy for employers to make safer hiring decisions, through a combination of robust yet simple to use solutions and technology that allows us to:

  • Deliver fast, accurate criminal record check results – through secure and easy to use experiences
  • Highlight best practice considerations for your screening program – our criminology experts are available to discuss the convictions that we uncover
  • Customised implementation – our experienced Client Success team will work with you to design a program that is efficient and effective for your organisation
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Global Reach, Local Knowledge

Depending on the country in question, the agency conducting the criminal record check and any associated service will vary within the United Kingdom (UK). In England & Wales, these checks are processed by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), whereas in Northern Ireland, checks are conducted by Access NI, and in Scotland by Disclosure Scotland. Sterling works closely with these national bodies as well as a wealth of other global safeguarding authorities, ensuring we are perfectly positioned to offer the appropriate level of criminal record check for any employment position, anywhere in the world.

When it comes to criminal checks in the UK, our dedicated team of experts will assist in determining the correct level of criminal record check for your candidates (Basic, Standard or Enhanced criminal disclosure), and will help to ensure the application is submitted along with all accompanying documentation, minimising delays in processing.

What is a Criminal Record Check?

A criminal record check can be a crucial step towards a robust employment screening program for many organisations. This is particularly the case where a role involves working with vulnerable populations or positions of trust and may include roles for employers within education, healthcare, financial services, and government organisations amongst others.

After Right to Work checks, which are obligatory for all UK employers, the criminal record check is the most commonly performed background check. There are different levels of criminal record checks and related services available to employers in the UK. For instance, in England & Wales the most common criminal record checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) include:

Basic DBS check
Standard DBS check
Enhanced DBS check

Types of Criminal Record Checks

Basic Criminal Record Check

The Basic criminal record check is the most commonly processed and applies to a wide array of positions and purposes, such as to support a Visa application.

England & Wales: A Basic DBS check is available to any individual applying for or already employed in a position. The Basic DBS contains details of convictions (and conditional cautions in England and Wales) that are considered to be unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA).

Northern Ireland/Scotland: A basic check can also be used for any purpose and contains details of unspent convictions.

To refer to country specific information relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:

Standard Criminal Record Check

Similarly, for each country in the UK, the Standard Disclosure can only be used for specific roles.

England & Wales: The Standard DBS Check discloses details of relevant spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings on the Police National Computer (PNC).

DBS Update Service: Only applicable within England & Wales for Standard and Enhanced DBS checks, this status check allows organisations to view any relevant information that has been identified about the individual since their certificate was last issued.

Northern Ireland: In NI, this contains details of spent and unspent convictions, informed warnings and other non-court disposals from the PNC.

Scotland: This level of disclosure contains details of unspent convictions, relevant spent convictions and unspent cautions, although also extends to information from the Sex Offenders Register. This may include roles such as solicitors, accountants or for those services providing care according to the Scottish government.

To refer to country specific information relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:

Enhanced Criminal Record Check

In general, it’s worth noting for an Enhanced Disclosure, an individual must meet certain eligibility criteria.

England & Wales: While an Enhanced level DBS is used for specific purposes such as for those that work with vulnerable children or adults, this type of DBS check contains the same PNC information as the standard level certificate, but also includes an additional check of information held by the police forces if this is deemed relevant. This level of DBS check can also include a check of the Child and Adult Barred lists if the role is eligible.

DBS Update Service: Only applicable within England & Wales for Standard and Enhanced DBS checks, this status check allows organisations to view any relevant information that has been identified about the individual since their certificate was last issued.

Northern Ireland: Similarly, while only applicable to certain roles such as those in vulnerable circumstances, an Enhanced Check contains details of spent and unspent convictions from the PNC, cautions, informed warnings and other non-court disposals from the PNC, along with information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (for positions in regulated activity) and information held by the police that is relevant to the role being applied for. Some older or minor convictions and non-court disposals on a criminal record may be filtered. If the role is eligible, this can also include a check of the Child and Adult Barred list.

Scotland: Disclosure Scotland includes the details of unspent convictions, relevant spent convictions, unspent cautions, inclusions on children’s or adult’s list if it’s relevant to the job, or other relevant information held by the Police information from the Sex Offenders Register. This may be appropriate to check the suitability of those looking to adopt, apply for certain gaming or lottery licenses.

PVG Scheme: PVG stands for Protecting Vulnerable Groups and applies to those doing regulated work with children and protected adults in Scotland. It details all unspent and certain conviction information, as well as any other non-conviction information that the police or other government bodies think is relevant. Disclosure Scotland keeps a close eye on the PVG Scheme members’ records for vetting information such as criminal convictions that may affect the suitability of individuals to work with vulnerable groups.

To refer to country specific information relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:

Basic Criminal Record Check

The Basic criminal record check is the most commonly processed and applies to a wide array of positions and purposes, such as to support a Visa application.

England & Wales: A Basic DBS check is available to any individual applying for or already employed in a position. The Basic DBS contains details of convictions (and conditional cautions in England and Wales) that are considered to be unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA).

Northern Ireland/Scotland: A basic check can also be used for any purpose and contains details of unspent convictions.

To refer to country specific information relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:

Standard Criminal Record Check

Similarly, for each country in the UK, the Standard Disclosure can only be used for specific roles.

England & Wales: The Standard DBS Check discloses details of relevant spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings on the Police National Computer (PNC).

DBS Update Service: Only applicable within England & Wales for Standard and Enhanced DBS checks, this status check allows organisations to view any relevant information that has been identified about the individual since their certificate was last issued.

Northern Ireland: In NI, this contains details of spent and unspent convictions, informed warnings and other non-court disposals from the PNC.

Scotland: This level of disclosure contains details of unspent convictions, relevant spent convictions and unspent cautions, although also extends to information from the Sex Offenders Register. This may include roles such as solicitors, accountants or for those services providing care according to the Scottish government.

To refer to country specific information relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:

Enhanced Criminal Record Check

In general, it’s worth noting for an Enhanced Disclosure, an individual must meet certain eligibility criteria.

England & Wales: While an Enhanced level DBS is used for specific purposes such as for those that work with vulnerable children or adults, this type of DBS check contains the same PNC information as the standard level certificate, but also includes an additional check of information held by the police forces if this is deemed relevant. This level of DBS check can also include a check of the Child and Adult Barred lists if the role is eligible.

DBS Update Service: Only applicable within England & Wales for Standard and Enhanced DBS checks, this status check allows organisations to view any relevant information that has been identified about the individual since their certificate was last issued.

Northern Ireland: Similarly, while only applicable to certain roles such as those in vulnerable circumstances, an Enhanced Check contains details of spent and unspent convictions from the PNC, cautions, informed warnings and other non-court disposals from the PNC, along with information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (for positions in regulated activity) and information held by the police that is relevant to the role being applied for. Some older or minor convictions and non-court disposals on a criminal record may be filtered. If the role is eligible, this can also include a check of the Child and Adult Barred list.

Scotland: Disclosure Scotland includes the details of unspent convictions, relevant spent convictions, unspent cautions, inclusions on children’s or adult’s list if it’s relevant to the job, or other relevant information held by the Police information from the Sex Offenders Register. This may be appropriate to check the suitability of those looking to adopt, apply for certain gaming or lottery licenses.

PVG Scheme: PVG stands for Protecting Vulnerable Groups and applies to those doing regulated work with children and protected adults in Scotland. It details all unspent and certain conviction information, as well as any other non-conviction information that the police or other government bodies think is relevant. Disclosure Scotland keeps a close eye on the PVG Scheme members’ records for vetting information such as criminal convictions that may affect the suitability of individuals to work with vulnerable groups.

To refer to country specific information relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:

International Criminal Record Searches

Sterling is able to provide international Criminal Record Searches, where available and legally compliant. The process, turnaround time, and cost will vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Learn More

A Note on ‘Enforced Subject Access’

Section 184 of the Data Protection Act 2018 makes it a criminal offence to require an individual to exercise their subject access rights to gain access to information about their convictions and cautions from a police station, and then provide that information to another person, such as a potential employer. Sterling does not use enforced subject access requests to obtain criminal record information about individuals when conducting criminal background checks. Instead, Sterling uses the authorised procedures created by Disclosure Scotland (DS) and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to obtain official criminal disclosure certificates.

This method of obtaining criminal record information is compliant with the Police Act 1997, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, as well as guidance issued on this matter by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK data protection authority.

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