Helpline - Frequently asked questions
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This section details the most common questions that our Helpline receives, along with the answers.
Criminal justice system
Disclosure of criminal records Back to top
How can I find out what is on my criminal record?
There are a number of ways you can find out about your criminal record. The best option will depend on what information you are trying to obtain. There are various ways, costing different amounts, providing different information, and having different ways of obtaining them. Click here for more information.
When will my criminal record become spent?
When your record becomes spent depends on when you were convicted, the sentence you received, and your age at the time of conviction. This is due to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. However. the easiest way to find out when your conviction becomes spent is to use a free online tool that we have developed, which is available at www.disclosurecalculator.org.uk. Click here for other ways of finding our when your record becomes spent, and click here for more information about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
What are the differences between unspent and spent convictions?
It is important to know the differences between unspent and spent convictions. Click here for more information.
Once my conviction becomes spent, is it deleted?
No. The Police National Computer retains all cautions and convictions. A spent conviction will continue to be disclosed on standard and enhanced disclosures, even once they are spent.
What types of criminal record checks can employers do?
There are three levels of check - basic, standard and enhanced. Basic checks disclose only unspent convictions. Standard checks disclose all convictions (as well as cautions, warnings and reprimands). Enhanced checks disclose the same as standard checks with the addition of any relevant non-conviction information. Only certain roles and positions are eligible for standard or enhanced checks, and only in certain cases is non-conviction disclosed on an enhanced CRB check. Click here for more information on the different types of checks, and click here for more information on non-conviction information being disclosed on enhanced checks.
Can I apply for a CRB check myself?
You can apply for a basic check yourself or a Responsible Body can apply on your behalf. You cannot currently apply for a standard or enhanced CRB check yourself - applications for these are made by employers (directly if they are a Registered Body or through an Umbrella Body). Click here for more information on Responsible Bodies.
Can I refuse to apply for a CRB check?
Yes, but there may be consequences. It depends on whether the position is eligible for a check, and, if you are an existing employee, what you agreed to. Click here to find out more information.
How do I find out if I am eligible to get a CRB check?
It can be a difficult to find out what level of check an employer is entitled to carry out, but for people with criminal records, particularly those that are spent, it can be very important. We have detailed guidance on our Information Hub for how to find out if a particular position is eligible for a check. Click here for more information.
What do I do if an employer is trying to do a CRB check on a position which isn't eligible for one?
If an employer is trying to do a certain level of CRB check that they are not entitled to, there is the potential that they will find out about a criminal record that technically they should not be entitled to see, mainly spent convictions. It is therefore important that you make sure you take steps to try and stop employers carrying a check out on your if they are not entitled to it, as usually once you have done the check there is little you can do. We have detailed guidance on our Information Hub on the steps you should take. Click here for more information.
I'm about to apply for a job which requires a basic disclosure - how can I find out what will be disclosed?
You should apply for a basic disclosure yourself. This may be something that the employer will ask you to do anyway, or they may apply for one with your consent. Details on how to do this can be found here.
I'm about to apply for a job which requires a standard CRB check - how can I find out what will be disclosed?
You cannot apply for a standard CRB check yourself, so you should apply for a Police Subject Access Report from your local Police Force and ask for a record of information held on the PNC. Details on how to do this can be found here.
I'm about to apply for a job which requires an enhanced CRB check - how can I find out what will be disclosed?
You cannot apply for an enhanced CRB check yourself, so you should apply for a Police Subject Access Report from your local Police Force and ask for a record of information held both on the PNC and on local police records. Details on how to do this can be found here.
I've applied for a CRB check - should I disclose to employer before or after?
In our experience, pre-CRB disclosure gives you the best chance of being successful. This shows the employer that you are being honest, open and unfront, and not attempting to conceal anything.
I want to know more about the CRB; where do I go?
There is detailed information on the CRB available here.
What is recorded on the PNC?
Only recorded offences (i.e. indictable, triable-either way and some summary offences) are recorded on the PNC. Non-recorded offences are held by the local police. More information is available here.
I have allegations or other local police information on my police record - will this be disclosed to my employer?
Local police information, such as allegations or findings of innocence, can be disclosed on an enhanced CRB check. This should only happen where the police feel it is necessary to do so. Click here for more information.
Can I get my criminal record deleted from the PNC?
The Police National Computer (PNC) currently retains all information until an individuals 100th birth date. The Police are obliged, under Part V of the Police Act 1997, to provide the CRB will access to all convictions held on the PNC. There was previously a system known as 'step-down', but this was ended into October 2009. You retain the right to contact the police directly about information about you which is held on the PNC, and ask them to remove it, through their Exceptional Case Procedure. However, it is very rare for convictions to be removed under this procedure. The procedure is usually reserved for cases involving non-conviction information, where it can be proved that the arrest was unlawful or where it is established beyond doubt that no offence existed. Click here for more information on this procedure.
Will my criminal record always show up on an enhanced CRB check?
Currently, there is no process for filtering criminal convictions from the PNC for the purposes of a CRB check. As a result, enhanced CRB checks will disclose all criminal convictions, as well as cautions, warnings and final reprimands. An enhanced check may also disclose non-conviction information. Click here for more information on CRB checks and here for more information on non-conviction information.
My conviction was stepped-down - has it been deleted?
It's very unlikely. Convictions that were stepped down were not normally deleted. As step-down is no longer in force, convictions previously stepped-down will be available to be disclosed by the police on standard and enhanced checks.
Who owns the information on the PNC?
The Police own the information on the PNC. Click here for more information.
Is there a way I can challenge or get non-conviction information deleted from my record?
It is possible for the Chief Police Officer of the Police Force that 'owns' the information to decide to remove non-conviction information. This is only done in exceptional circumstances. Click here for more information.
I’m applying for a job that doesn’t require a CRB check, but which involves a Counter Terrorist Check – will that disclose my criminal record?
A Counter Terrorist Check (CTC) allows access where there is a specific threat from terrorism to government establishments. The purpose of the CTC is to prevent persons who may have connections with terrorist organizations, or who may be vulnerable to pressure from such organisations, from undertaking certain security duties where there is a risk that they could exploit their position to further the aims of a terrorist organisation. The CTC check includes a Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) (formerly known as a Basic Check) and a check against Security Service (MI5) records and police records. Occasionally you may be invited to attend an interview with a DfT security officer. If you already have a valid CTC clearance, or higher, you are not required to undergo a separate criminal record check. A CTC will normally take up to six months and it is usually valid for 3 years.
What does the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) check involve?
The Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) check (formerly known as a Basic Check) will show your unspent criminal record under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. A BPSS provides a level of assurance to the trustworthiness and integrity of individuals whose work involves access to confidential assets or information. There are no access restrictions for this level of disclosure and the result may be sent to you or the employer. A BPSS involves a check of identity documents and employment/education referees. BPSS’s are normally conducted by the recruitment authorities or companies to mandatory standards. The BPSS check will take one or two days to complete. It is not a formal security clearance check, however it is a prerequisite for the other security clearances; Security Clearance, Counter-Terrorist Check and Defence Vetting. Baseline Personnel Security Standard Checks are typically used by Airports and employers (including the civil service) who wish to determine a candidates' criminal record when the employer is not entitled to ask Exempt Questions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
I’ve been asked to disclose my criminal record, but want to provide supporting information - what other evidence can I use to help me to explain my record?
There are a number of additional pieces of information which may help you when disclosing your record. They may not all apply to you, and if you were convicted a long time ago, they may no longer be available.
• Notes that are held on local Police records
• A copy of a pre-sentence report
• A transcript of your court hearing (e.g. sentencing remarks by the judge)
• A letter from somebody who knew you (a professional) when you were in Prison
• A letter from your Probation Officer (either now, or from the past)
• References from people who knew you at the time you committed the offence(s)
• References from people who have known you since you committed the offence(s)
Employment & Volunteering Back to top
I have a criminal record and am looking for paid employment - can you help?
As a small charity, we do not currently receive funding to find people work. This is an area which is dominated by large service-delivery organisations that assist people getting into work either specifically because of their criminal record (this tends to be focused on those in prison, and those on licence in the community) or mainstream employment organisations that assist people regardless of their record. As part of our online Information Hub we have a comprehensive section on employment, with details of a wide range of organisations that may be of assistance. In addition, you may need to look at issues surrounding disclosure, such as how he finds out what he has to disclose, when, and to who. Again, we have detailed information on our Information Hub about disclosure. Click here for the section on employment and here for the section on disclosure.
Do I have to disclose my criminal record?
You only have to disclose your record if you are asked. If you are asked, and you don't disclose, you could be committing a criminal offence. If you are also on licence, you could be recalled for failing to disclose.
If I am asked about my convictions, when is the best time to disclose?
There is no fixed "best time" to disclose, despite what some people think. It always depends on your conviction, the job you are applying for, and the recruitment process. You have options - you can disclose before application, on the application form, before interview, at interview, after interview, after job offer or once you start. There are pro's and con's to all of these approaches. You need to think about how to disclose your record to an employer. Click here for more information.
I’ve done a CRB check for a job that I’ve been offered and a conviction has come up that I didn’t know was on my record. I didn’t disclose this to the employer at application or interview stage and they’ve withdrawn the job offer. Can they do this?
Yes. As an applicant, you have very few rights. You may be able to explain why you didn't disclose, but the employer may feel you have tried to be dishonest. Many employers don't have an issue with the conviction, but they feel like you've tried to be dishonest by witholding your criminal record.
I’ve recently been convicted - do I have to tell my current employer?
It depends what you were asked about when you first took the job and what is in your contract. Click here for more information.
Can my employer ask me to do a basic disclosure after I started my job?
It depends what you were asked about regarding your criminal record when you first took the job. Click here for more information.
Is it possible to get a job working with vulnerable groups with a criminal record?
Yes. The only specific restriction to this is for those individuals who are barred from working with vulnerable groups. In this situation, you would not be able to work in 'regulated activity'. Otherwise, it is perfectly possible for people with convictions to be employed in working with vulnerable groups. In this situation, during the recruitment process it will be likely that all of your convictions will be disclosed to the employer, and it will be up to them to decide whether to employ you.
I have multiple convictions – should I forget about becoming a social worker?
There are no rules against people with multiple convictions becoming a social worker. The key thing to do is understand who you will need to disclose your convictions to, and how you should go about this, including what information you should provide to give more information surrounding the circumstances of the offence. Click here for more information.
I want to apply for a Security Industry Authority licence - will I be able to get one?
It wil depend on the details of your convictions. Many people with convictions are licensed by the SIA. More details about the process is available here.
What is the National Staff Dismissal Register (NSDR)?
This is run by a private company. They collate data of individuals who have been dismissed (whether prosecuted or otherwise), or left a company whilst under suspcicious of offences such as theft and fraud, and share this with employers who request the information. Click here for more information.
I've lost my job because of my criminal record, can I claim Job Seekers Allowance?
It depends on whether you are found to be 'voluntarily unemploymed'. Click here for more information.
Can I be self-employed and run my own business with a criminal record?
There are no restrictions to being self-employed with a criminal record. There are lots of useful organisations that may be able to help you. You may also need to use the list of insurance companies and insurance guidance if you have unspent convictions. If you wish to become a Director, you need to make sure your conviction doesn't disqualify you. Click here for more information on useful organisations. Click here for more information on insurance. Click here for more information on becoming a Director.
Can I get funding to start up my own business?
UNLOCK are not a funding organisation. However, we have information and links to various sources of funding, and organisations that may be able to assist. Click here for more information.
I would like to set up my own business and I am looking for advice - can you help?
UNLOCK provide information & advice individuals on how to overcome the barriers caused by a criminal record. In relation to setting up a business, this specifically relates to sources of help for insurance (click here), and advice on if you want to become a Director (click here). If you are looking for general advice and support in setting up a business, you should seek the help of mainstream organisations that help people set up businesses - your criminal record shouldn't bar you from receiving their help. Click here for details of some useful organisations.
Education & Training Back to top
I want to go to University but have a criminal record - will it cause me any problems?
It's unlikely. Most Universiies are, in practice, positive towards people with convictions. There may be certain situations where your conviction may cause a problem - particularly convictions involving offences against the person, or where the course itself includes a placement which, due to your criminal record, may be difficult to find. In this situation, you should offer to find your own placement, and being able to show that you've already got one in place will go in your favour.
Can I do an Open University degree whilst in prison?
Yes, although certain courses and certain prisons may have restrictions. Click here for more information.
Where can I get funding for education or training?
There are various sources of information and useful contacts if you are in need of funding. Click here for more information.
Insurance Back to top
Where can I get advice on insurance if I have a criminal record?
We have published a comprehensive guide (and a shorter simpler guide) for consumers on insurance and convictions, which covers issues like what you need to disclose and when, what could happen if you don't, what might happen if you do, and where you can get insurance with unspent convictions. Click here to view the guide.
Who can provide insurance to people with convictions?
We maintain a list of insurance brokers who we know of as being able to assist people with unspent convictions obtain insurance. This is kept regularly updated. Click here to download the list.
Is there a specific company that you would suggest I go with?
We are an independent charity, and therefore do not provide insurance directly, nor are we FSA regulated and so we are able to provide specific insurance advice or recommend a specific company.
I want to get motor insurance and only have non-motoring convictions - who should I contact?
There are providers of motor insurance detailed in UNLOCK's list of insurance brokers. These companies can provide insurance based on the unspent convictions that you have. In addition to this, we have a list of companies who provide motor insurance who we have been informed are able to insure people with unspent non-motoring convictions. Whilst you still need to disclose all unspent convictions (as they are material facts), these companies tend not to need to take these into account when offering a policy. Both of these lists, as well as detailed guidance on insurance and convictions, are available to download here.
Does an insurer have to remove my conviction when it becomes spent?
You are entitled to ask an insurance company to remove data regarding spent convictions under the Data Protection Act 1998 on the basis that it is no longer necessary. Click here for more information.
I am a landlord - what do I have to do in terms of finding out whether my tenants have unspent convictions?
You have to take reasonable steps to find out whether your tenant has unspent convictions. Click here for more information
Banking Back to top
How do I open a bank account whilst in prison?
We have a detailed guide for people in prison who wish to open a bank account before release. Click here more information.
I've got a conviction for fraud and fear I might get refused a bank account - what do I do?
We have produced a guide for people with a criminal record and a history of fraud. Click here.
I’ve been released from prison and need a bank account – what should I do?
There is no blanket discrimination by banks towards people with convictions. They generally do not ask about convictions. Banks may, however, refuse on the basis of a record of fraud. If you need to open an account, you need to make sure you can provide sufficient proof of your ID, which can be difficult for some. There are some options, such as a letter from Probation. More information can be found here.
Mortgages Back to top
Can I get a mortgage with a criminal record?
You only have to disclose unspent convictions to a mortgage provider, and only if you are asked about them. We have guidance available on the questions that some providers do (or don't) ask, and what their policies are. Click here for more information.
Other finance issues Back to top
Can I get funding?
UNLOCK are not a funding organisation. However, we have information and links to various sources of funding, and organisations that may be able to assist. Click here for more information.
Crime and the police Back to top
How do I get my property back from the police?
We’ve produced a detailed guide on getting property back from the police. This is available here.
Can I make a claim from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme if I have a criminal record?
Yes, although you might find that what you are entitled to is reduced due to your convictions. We have a detailed guide available here.
Courts and sentencing Back to top
Can I get a copy of what was said by the judge when I was convicted/sentenced?
If your case was dealt with at a Crown Court, then possibly. You will need to apply for a copy of the court transcript. This normally involves contacting a private company that deals with that court, and there will be costs involved. More information is available here.
Particular sentences/disposals Back to top
Appeals / Miscarriages of justice Back to top
I wasn't aware of the implications my criminal record would have, and would now like to appeal against what I received - how do I go about doing this?
We are unable to assist people who are looking to appeal against their conviction or the sentence that they received. You will need to see legal advice on the merits of your case, and whether you would be entitled for legal aid. However, there are time limits on when you are able to bring an appeal. Click here for more information on appeals and click here for potential sources of legal advice.
Prison Back to top
Probation Back to top
Can I travel abroad during a community order?
There is no general exclusion from travelling abroad whilst serving a community order. However, travel abroad may, in practice, not be feasible due to the requirements of the community order, e.g. a curfew, regular unpaid work or supervision. There may also be a specific prohibition as part of the community order that stops you from travelling abroad. If you are in doubt, you should contact your offender manager.
I'm having problems with the way Probation are dealing with me - what can I do?
The best way is to try and resolve the matter informally with the relevan person. More often than not, the problems arise due to a lack of communication. Sit down and talk to the Probation person, and explan the problem that you're having. If the problem remains, you will need to pursue the matter internally via the Probation areas complaints process. This will normally involve a formal complain in writing. Before you do that, get the person concerned to confirm in writing their current position, so that you have evidence to back up your point. More details on making a complain can be found here.
Getting involved in the Criminal Justice System Back to top
Housing Back to top
Identification Back to top
Resettlement Back to top
Travel Back to top
I want to travel abroad and want to know whether I am restricted because of my criminal record - can you help?
There are three main ways that a criminal record may cause you difficulties when travelling abroad. Firstly, some countries have entry restrictions. For example, your may have to apply for a visa, where you may be asked about your criminal record. Secondly, if you are on licence, it will normally be a condition of your licence that you cannot travel abroad, and you will therefore need to seek permission from Probation before doing so, otherwise you risk breaching your licence. Thirdly, if you have been convicted of sexual offences, it may be that you are subject to specific notification requirements before travelling. There is more information about travelling abroad on the Information Hub. Click here for more information.
Can I travel abroad while on licence?
Some individuals may face restrictions on travelling abroad whilst on licence supervision in the community. This will be decided by the Probation Service. Commonly, licences include a standard condition that you must not travel outside the United Kingdom without obtaining the prior permission of your supervising officer, which will be given in exceptional circumstances only. More information is available here.
I want to travel to the US but I have a criminal record - what do I do?
It is more than likely that you will need to apply for a visa. This doesn't mean that you will refused - indeed, many people are successful in their application. However, the US have strict eligibility for the 'Visa Waiver Program', so most people with convictions will need to apply for a visa. There is a detailed guide available on this progress here.
I want to apply to become a British citizen - will my record cause me any problems?
The UKBA take into account convictions when deciding whether to grant an individual citizenship. More details can be found here.
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Individuals with convictions for sexual offences Back to top
I've been convicted of a sexual offence and am having difficulties with the restrictions I have - can you help?
Unlock is unable to assist in the challenging of any restrictions that are placed on you as part of, or related to, your offence or conviction. However, we have a detailed section for people with convictions for sexual offences, covering various issues including notification periods and SOPO's.
I’m on the SOR for life – will this change once the ROA changes?
As we understand it, the Government doesn’t have any plans to change the notification periods contained in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. They are separate to the disclosure periods in the ROA. It is therefore possible for an individual to be subject to notification requirements yet still have that conviction demined ‘spent’ under the ROA.
I’m still subject to SOR requirements but no longer on license. Can I travel outside the UK?
There is no automatic prohibition on travel outside UK for persons subject to SOR unless this is specified in any associated SOPO (sexual offences prohibition order) or you are subject to a foreign travel order (which are very rare). However, you are required to notify your PPU/ViSOR supervising officers of any travel plans in advance and this is irrespective of the duration of your planned absence from the UK. Failure to do this might constitute an offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison. You should be aware that your SOR status is “flagged” up at border control points and that UKBA officers will be aware of this and may stop and question you at both exit and re-entry to the UK.
Will the country/place I'm travelling to be notified of my sexual conviction?
This would normally only occur if you travelled without prior notification or in breach of a foregin travel order preventing you from travelling outside the UK – therefore, committing a further offence. In the event you had fulfilled your commitment to notify (and therefore travelled with implied permission) there should be no reason for UK police to disclose your conviction or communicate with foreign law enforcement. There is currently only limited routine sharing of criminal record information across states; primarily within the EU.
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