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Finding out about your criminal record

Download a short guide to this: Finding out about your criminal record [PDF]

Aim of this information

Finding out what’s on your criminal record will assist you when it comes to dealing with employers and other organisations (for example insurance companies). Once you have this information you will be able to work out if your convictions are spent or filtered, thereby giving you a better understanding of whether or not you need to disclose your convictions.

This information sets out the different ways in which you can find out the details of your criminal record and how to apply for them.

This information forms part of our disclosing to employers section.

Why is this important?

There are millions of people in the UK with a criminal record. You will probably have a criminal record if you have ever accepted an official police caution, pleaded guilty or been found guilty in a criminal court.

Employers, insurers, and others might ask you for details of your criminal record, and if the information you disclose is not accurate, this could cause you problems at a later stage.

It’s important therefore that you find out what’s contained on your criminal record, to enable you to disclose the correct information when asked. This will prevent you from disclosing inaccurate information, disclosing too much information or not disclosing what you are legally obliged to disclose.


Before you start thinking about how and when to disclose, you need to know what to disclose. It’s a good idea to know this as soon as possible and before applying for a particular role.

There are various types of criminal record checks. The most common are those which relate to employment and are referred to as basic, standard or enhanced DBS checks. You can apply for your own basic DBS check. However, you cannot apply for your own standard or enhanced DBS check.

Ways of finding out your criminal record

Depending on what type of job you’re applying for, there are two different ways to find out about your criminal record for disclosure purposes:

1. Basic DBS check

  • If you’re applying for a job that is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the employer may carry out a basic DBS check. You can apply for this yourself through the Disclosure and Barring Service.
  • It costs £18, and will show any unspent criminal convictions.
  • For more details, see our information on basic DBS disclosures.

Click above image for an example of a basic DBS certificate showing unspent convictions

2. ‘Subject access request’ from the police

  • If you’re applying for a job that is not covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the employer may carry out a standard or enhanced criminal record check.
  • You’re unable to apply for your own standard or enhanced criminal record check in advance.
  • However, under the Data Protection Act, you’re able to ask the police for a copy of your criminal record. This is known as a ‘subject access request’ (SAR).
  • The SAR is free, and the police have up to one calendar month to supply it. For more details on how to apply, see our information on police records.

SAR (PNC) front page

Click above image for an example of a NPCC no trace letter and a four page Police Record SAR

When you apply for your SAR, depending on what you want, you can request to see:

  • A copy of your national PNC (Police National Computer) record – this will show all convictions and cautions that are held on the PNC. This is useful if the criminal record check you’re planning to do in the future is a standard one.
  • A copy of your national PNC and local police records if the criminal record check being carried out is an enhanced one. This will show all convictions and cautions that are held on the PNC, as well as any information held locally by the police.
  • This document should only be used to help you understand your criminal record. If you want to know what will be disclosed on a standard or enhanced check, you’ll need to use the information disclosed to work out if anything will be filtered.
  • On enhanced checks local police records may also be disclosed, if the police force consider they are relevant to the role being applied for.
  • You should not be required to provide the SAR report to an employer, insurer or other organisation. This is known as enforced subject access and is a criminal offence.

There are also other ways of finding out about your criminal record, such as a police certificate (used for travel purposes). For more information, go to our information on understanding your criminal record.

Basic DBS check or SAR?

With SAR’s being free of charge, you might assume that this is the best option available. However, it’s important to remember that what you see on your SAR will be different to what you’ll need to disclose to an employer. An SAR provides details of everything that’s held about you on the Police National Computer (PNC), it doesn’t differentiate between spent and unspent convictions. If you’re not really careful you could easily find yourself disclosing too much to a potential employer.

If you’re applying for jobs in the future that involve basic checks. In particular, if you think your conviction is spent and you’re planning not to disclose it to an employer.

  • If you’re applying for jobs involving standard/enhanced DBS checks.
  • If you want to know if something will be filtered and need to work it out.
  • If you want to find out what information the police hold about you.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available in our disclosing to employers and understanding your criminal record sections
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord


Download a short guide to this: Finding out about your criminal record [PDF]



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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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