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Understanding your criminal record

Bringing together links to information, resources, advice, FAQ's and useful links

Understanding your criminal record in brief

  • 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 (known as a ‘Subject Access Request’).
  • There are times when your criminal record may be shared. Some of these ‘sharing’ systems are official (like criminal record checks for employment), whereas others can be more informal (like friends telling others or searching the internet).

What gets recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) and how can you find out what's on your criminal record

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.

Generally an offence that could result in imprisonment is classed as a recordable offence. There are also some more summary offences that are designated as recordable. Non-recordable offences are usually held on local police records.

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.

There are various ways to find out what is on your criminal record and how you choose to go about it will depend on what you need to know.

Convictions received overseas may appear on the Police National Computer if the offence is considered a crime under UK law and it is deemed to be recordable in the UK.

Having cautions and convictions deleted from the PNC

Cautions and convictions remain on the PNC until you are 100 years old. However, there are some situations where the police may agree to delete information or destroy biometric information (DNA and fingerprints).

How can criminal records be shared?

There are many ways in which your criminal record may be shared. It could be for employment purposes, for risk assessments (in the case of people on MAPPA) or by the media after you’ve received a conviction.

Generally, details of your criminal record should not be shared unless you’ve given your explicit consent.

As the PNC has developed and grown, so the number of users has grown with it. In 1992, the DVLA and HM Customs and Excise were the only organisations with direct access to the PNC for ‘read only’ purposes. Today, as well as servicing the needs of 43 police forces in England and Wales and 8 forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland, other smaller police forces and specialists units also have access to the PNC as do a number of non-police agencies.

Frequently asked questions

  • 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.

  • 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.

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