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University policies on criminal record disclosure

Applying to university with a criminal record can be intimidating. Since 2018, UCAS no longer ask all applicants to tick the ‘criminal convictions’ box and universities have developed their own policies.* Many do still ask, but a growing number now ask about ‘conditions or restrictions’ that might affect study. Some no longer ask at all.

We’ve created a searchable database of all university policies on criminal records. Search by university or look for all universities that don’t ask about unspent convictions.

Click to search the database
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We’ve worked hard to make sure the database is up to date but policies do change. If there is something wrong please contact

*UCAS applicants to courses leading directly to regulated professions will be asked about criminal records that are not protected. For more information see UCAS or contact

Tommy – A call to the Unlock helpline led to my conviction becoming spent and a new job

Tommy contacted our helpline for information and advice after a conviction which was over 8 years old had been disclosed on his basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.

He explained that he had been convicted in early 2013 and received a £70 fine and a restraining order. From the research he had done, he knew that his fine would be spent after 1 year and he had therefore not disclosed it to an employer at a recent interview. His application had been successful and his new employer had asked him to apply for a basic DBS check which he’d just received. Tommy couldn’t understand why his conviction was still showing and was extremely worried that as a result of this disclosure, the job offer would be withdrawn.

The helpline advisor explained that as Tommy had been given an indefinite restraining order, his conviction was considered unspent. The advisor suggested that Tommy should consider applying to the court to have the restraining order revoked. If his application were successful, then his conviction would be spent and would no longer appear on his basic DBS certificate.

Over the next couple of days, Tommy spent some time drafting a letter to the court and emailed a copy of it to the helpline for feedback and comments.

Two months later Tommy contacted the helpline again with an update; the court had agreed to revoke the restraining order. He told us:

“After speaking to the Unlock helpline advisor, I knew what I needed to do and applying to the court and attending a remote hearing at the court was all really straightforward.

Sadly, the employer I’d originally applied to wasn’t interested in listening to the circumstances surrounding my conviction, they were only concerned with the fact that I’d apparently lied to them. Nevertheless, I’ve recently started a new job working for the Civil Service and I’m absolutely loving it.



We regularly hear from people who, because of the presence of a court order, have a conviction which remains unspent. The impact of this type of order is rarely explained and many people are not aware that court orders have their own rehabilitation periods.



Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published July 2021.


Maryam – I successfully challenged the police over the disclosure of my filtered caution

Maryam contacted our helpline for information and advice after a caution which had been filtered by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was disclosed as police intelligence on her enhanced DBS certificate.

She explained that in 2013 she had received a caution for ‘Falsely representing self to possess a qualification in nursing/midwifery’. The caution had arisen after a nursing agency Maryam had been signed up with had accidently sent her to a job which required a registered nurse despite Maryam not being officially qualified to carry out all of duties asked of her.

She had recently applied for a job as a healthcare assistant and had been told by the police that they believed it was necessary for her filtered caution to be disclosed as ‘police intelligence’ on her enhanced DBS certificate.

The helpline advisor explained to Maryam that she should dispute the disclosure of the information with the police and if the police refused to remove it, then she she challenge the disclosure through the DBS Independent Monitor. The advisor highlighted some of the things which Maryam should include in her letter to the police, namely that some of the information disclosed was factually incorrect which Maryam could evidence.

Maryam sent her letter to the police and contacted Unlock several months later to say:

“Great news, the police have finally removed the information from my enhanced DBS certificate. Thank you so much for all your support and advice, it’s really appreciated.



Although we are aware that the police can disclose filtered cautions/convictions if they believe they are relevant to the job an applicant is applying for, this was the first time we had seen this happen. As Maryam had evidence to show that some of the information was factually incorrect, we felt it was important that she challenged the disclosure with the police.



Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published July 2021.


Jaxon – I used Unlock’s list of insurance brokers to get public liability insurance

Jaxon contacted our helpline as he was finding it difficult to get public liability insurance due to his unspent conviction.

Jaxon explained that he had several convictions which he’d received as a youth which had led to fines and community orders. However, his last conviction had resulted in a four-year prison sentence.

Whilst in prison, Jaxon attended as many education courses as he could one of which was a barbering course. He was sure that this could lead to a job or self-employment on his release from prison. However, despite having the funding in place to open his own shop, he was struggling to find an insurance company that would offer him a suitable insurance policy.

The helpline advisor gave Jaxon the details of Unlock’s list of insurance brokers.

Jaxon contacted Unlock several days later and stated:

“I called a couple of the brokers on the list and very quickly got a really competitive quote from one of them. Thanks to Unlock I’m on the road to fulfilling my dreams of having my own business as a barber.




Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published July 2021.



This page provides references that relate to our latest Strategic plan, 2021-26

  1. Number of nominal records on the Police National Computer, FOI 44921 
  2. Ministry of Justice (2019) The economic and social costs of reoffending, 
  3. Department for Work and Pensions (2012) Government launches employment support for prisoners 
  4. Between 7 and 8% of people sentenced by the courts each year are immediately sent to prison. For example, Ministry of Justice (2020) Criminal justice statistics quarterly, June 2020 
  5. Ministry of Justice (2010) Conviction histories of Offenders between the ages of 10 and 52 (England and Wales) 
  6. Ministry of Justice (2010) Conviction histories of Offenders between the ages of 10 and 52 (England and Wales) 
  7. Ministry of Justice and DWP (2011) Offending, employment and benefits – emerging findings from the data linkage project 
  8. Ministry of Justice (2012) Accommodation, homelessness and reoffending of prisoners 
  9. Working Links (2010) Tagged for life 
  10. YouGov (2016) Employer’s attitudes to people with convictions 
  11. A number of studies in the United States has looked at the impact of criminal records reform. A study that found that expungement boosted participants’ employment rates and average real earnings ) another which found that average wages rose by 23% post-expungement and that recidivism amongst expungees was very low – 4% ( A summary of the evidence is available at 
  12. Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice system published periodically by the Ministry of Justice since 2010 has shown this. See Ministry of Justice (2018) Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2018 
  13. Bulman, M. (2018) Black teenage boys more likely to get maximum jail terms than white children, Independent 3 October 2018, 
  14. Disclosure and Barring Service (2020) DBS dataset 1: Disclosure Progress, Update Service and DBS Basics Information , 
  15. Ministry of Justice (2020) Criminal justice system statistics quarterly: December 2019 

What we do

Unlock is a national independent advocacy charity that supports, speaks up and campaigns for people facing stigma, prejudice and discrimination because of their criminal record. 

Our mission is to advocate for people with criminal records to be able to move on positively in their lives. We:  

  • Support people with criminal records to navigate their way through challenging times
  • Research and raise awareness of the systemic issues that people are facing  
  • Campaign for changes to legislation, policies and practices of government, employers and others. 

Our plan

Take a look at the key priorities and objectives of our 2021-26 strategic plan, or download the full PDF.

Our outcomes and impact

This strategy, and the objectives within it, focus Unlock towards our core goal: to have a positive impact on the lives of people with criminal records, so they can move on positively in their lives. By developing a multi-year business plan to deliver this strategy, we will make sure that we continue to keep our eyes on the overall impact of our work, aligning each project and deliverable, however big or small, to our purpose. We will focus on outcomes to give us clarity about what we’re trying to do, help us track our progress towards long-term impact, and enable us to improve. 

We have two overarching outcomes to our work, one at an individual level and one at a systemic level: 

  1. People have knowledge, skills, confidence and support to overcome the disadvantages related to their criminal record. Two of the strategic objectives of this plan will help us get there – we will reach more people by helping them to self-serve digitally, and we will strengthen our capacity to support people more. Together, this will enable people with criminal records to be aware of their rights, know where to turn for advice, and be able to challenge the stigma and discrimination they are facing. 
  2. People with criminal records are free from stigma, prejudice and discrimination as a result of government, employers and others having policies, practices and attitudes that support their fair treatment. Three of the strategic objectives of this plan will help us achieve these changes. We will be a powerful voice in pushing for change to legislation, policies and practices, using strategic litigation to bring about change, and increasing the research and evidence base to support us to achieve change at a policy and systemic level. 

To achieve and underpin our two overarching outcomes, our third outcome is that Unlock is effective, efficient and professional in its work and operations, ensuring we have systems to achieve maximum impact. Developing Unlock’s sustainability, resilience and good governance is one of the six strategic objectives of this strategy. On top of this, we will to continue to:  

  1. Invest in our people – this includes the development of our board, staff and volunteers. We will make sure that the organisation has sufficient capacity to deliver this strategy. We will work effectively as a team to embed and demonstrate our values and our approach across the organisation.
  2. Increase our visibility  this includes growing our media presence, where it is useful for delivering this strategy. We will build on our successful social media presence, developing our strategy further. We will strengthen and align our brand to our values and key messages.  

With positive progress on each of these outcomes, people with criminal records will be better able to move on positively in their lives.  

What does this mean in practice?

We help

We listen and learn

We take action

Equity, equality, diversity and inclusion

Our Equity, equality, diversity and inclusion strategy runs from 2023-26, and guides all aspects of our work.

Read the full strategy here: Unlock’s EEDI strategy 2023-26

Find out about how the strategy was developed in this blog: Equity, equality, diversity and inclusion: review, learn and improve

Donald – Getting support from Unlock to challenge an ineligible DBS check allowed me to keep my job with the NHS

Donald contacted our helpline looking for some information and advice relating to a risk assessment panel his employers had asked him to attend.

Donald explained that he had been working in a management role for the NHS for two months. However following receipt of his enhanced DBS certificate which had disclosed his two convictions (one from 2002 and one from 2012) he had been asked to attend a risk assessment panel. Donald was keen to find out what type of questions he might be asked and, whether the NHS could dismiss him from his job.

He went on to explain that he hadn’t disclosed his convictions to his employers during the recruitment process as they were both spent and he believed that they would be carrying out a basic DBS check. He stated that although he was employed by the NHS his job involved the management of supplies going into two hospitals with his office being based almost 4 miles from the hospital premises. He visited each hospital once a year to carry out an audit and never had any contact with patients.

The helpline advisor asked Donald to provide her with a copy of his job description and, having read through it, confirmed that the job would only require a basic DBS check. The advisor provided him with links to our information on eligibility, and explained that as the job was covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act the NHS appeared to have carried out an ineligible DBS check.

The advisor recommended that Donald speak with his Line Manager or the HR department highlighting how the NHS may have committed a criminal offence under the Police Act by undertaking an ineligible DBS check. They may also have breached the General Data Protection Regulations by obtaining and processing information relating to spent convictions which was likely to be considered ‘excessive’ if the position was not covered by the ROA Exceptions Order.

Several weeks later, Donald contacted the helpline again with an update. He had attended the risk assessment panel meeting and raised his concerns that an ineligible DBS check had been carried out. He provided the panel with a copy of Unlock’s eligibility information as well as guidance produced by the NHS which supported Donald’s opinion that his role would only be eligible for a basic DBS check

Donald stated:

“After the panel had read through all the information I’d presented to them, they agreed that a mistake had been made and that an enhanced DBS check wasn’t necessary. It was agreed that no further action would be taken and I was free to leave and get on with my job.

I’m so grateful to Unlock for the advice and support given and for making me look at my problem from a different perspective.”



Establishing the correct level of DBS check can cause confusion for employers, especially those who regularly recruit for roles working in regulated activity. However, as this case demonstrates it is the job role which dictates the level of check being done and not the employer an individual is working for.


Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published March 2021.


Omar – Being told that I might be placed on a DBS barred list made me relive my conviction 24 years later

Omar contacted our helpline for some information and advice following receipt of a letter from the DBS stating that they were considering adding him to the adult and/or children’s barred list.

Omar explained that in the late 1990’s when he was aged 14 he had been convicted of sexual activity in a public place. He went on to say that this had been consensual with his same-sex partner who was 11 months older than him. He was aware that at that time several of his friends had been convicted of similar offences and it had always felt as though the charges were being used to persecute gay and bisexual men.

Omar told the helpline advisor that since that one conviction, he had never been in trouble and was well respected by his family, friends and work colleagues. He had recently applied for a new job working in an administrative role in a children’s hospital and although he wouldn’t be working in regulated activity, his new employers had applied for an enhanced DBS check which he understood they were allowed to do.

He was confused, concerned and upset to learn that the DBS were considering adding him to one of the barred lists and stated:

“The letter from the DBS made me relive something that happened 24 years ago and I feel just as I did then that I’m being persecuted for being a gay man.

The helpline advisor explained that applications for enhanced checks can often lead the DBS to consider whether, due to a previous conviction, an individual should be included on one (or both) barred lists. However, before the DBS could include someone on a list, they had to establish that the individual has been, or might in the future be, engaged in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults.

The advisor went on to say that if Omar did nothing then the DBS would automatically add him to the barred list and it was important therefore that he submit his representation to them. She provided him with a link to Unlock’s information on making representation and highlighted some of the things that Omar should include, namely:

  • That his conviction was 24 years ago and the fact that he has had a completely clean record since then.
  • Details of his career to date and if possible, a professional reference.
  • Although his job would be based in a children’s hospital, he would not be working in regulated activity and has no intention of doing so in the future.
  • That he poses no current or future risk to children or vulnerable adults.

We contacted Omar 3 months later for an update and he told us:

“I got a response form the DBS following the formal representation I made. They’ve told me that no further action will be taken and that they’re happy for me to work in regulated activity if I wish to do so. Thanks Unlock for all the help and support you’ve given me over the last few months”.



As our helpline advisor explained to Omar, the DBS will often send individuals a ‘minded to bar’ letter following receipt of an application for an enhanced DBS check. Although this can often be seen as a standard administrative process, if you don’t make representation you may find that the DBS will automatically add you to one (or both) barred lists meaning that you can’t apply for or work in regulated activity for the foreseeable future.



Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published March 2021.


Asher – Unlock helped me to get links to online information about my conviction removed

Asher contacted our helpline for advice on getting online information about his conviction removed.

He explained that his conviction was almost 20 years old and was now spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. However, anybody who searched for his name online would very quickly find out about his conviction for theft which had resulted in a short prison sentence.

Asher stated:

“The media reports from that time make for really uncomfortable reading and portray me as a thoroughly heinous individual. I know it’s been written in that way to sell the story but I’ve become aware recently that employers do informal checks on potential applicants using the internet and I know I’d never get an interview let alone a job if an employer were to read this.

The helpline advisor explained that following a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in May 2014, individuals could request the deletion or removal of personal data published online, often referred to as ‘the right to be forgotten’.

The advisor told Asher that he could apply to Google to have the links to his name removed using their online application form. He would need to provide Google with the URL link for each site on which his name appeared and then explain why the search result was ‘irrelevant, outdated or inappropriate’. The advisor gave Asher a link to a template document which he could use as the basis for his application to Google.

Asher got back in touch with Unlock a couple of weeks later to say:

“Google have removed the URLs relating to my name and spent conviction. I’m incredibly grateful for your advice and delighted by the action taken by Google as well as being surprised at how quickly it was resolved”.



As this case demonstrates, Google will often remove links to your name very quickly if you are able to demonstrate that your conviction is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and that it is no longer relevant or appropriate for it to remain online.



Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published March 2021.


Terry – Opening a bank account has finally made me feel ‘normal’ again

Terry contacted our helpline from prison seeking help to open a bank account prior to his release.

He stated that he had initially applied to NatWest Bank for a current account approximately one year ago. NatWest had refused his application as their qualifying criteria stated that individuals needed to be within 6 months of release from prison before an account could be opened. He had applied again in August 2020 but to date had heard nothing.

Terry told the helpline advisor that he was due to be released from prison just before Christmas and, without a bank account he would not have access to any money during the Christmas holidays. With Covid infection rates increasing, and parts of the country likely to go into some form of lockdown, he was becoming increasingly anxious and starting to think that remaining in prison was preferable to release. Although Terry had tried on numerous occasions to get information and advice from the prison, the Covid pandemic meant that there was very little opportunity for him to be out of his cell and, the limited numbers of staff available meant that his case was not considered urgent.

Our helpline advisor explained that up until 2014, Unlock had ran a 9-year project, working with prisons and the banking industry, to better enable those in prison to open a bank account. At that time, the prison Terry was in had a banking arrangement in place with HSBC and our advisor suggested that Terry ask his personal officer or a member of the resettlement team for details of how to apply for an account with them. Alternatively, Terry could consider opening an account with a local Credit Union and we provided him with details of one closest to the prison.

Several weeks later, Terry got back in touch with the helpline to say:

“Thanks to you guys I’ve got a new bank account and I can now start to look forward to being home for Christmas.”


Notes about this case study

  1. Terry was supported by Unlock’s helpline.
  2. We have practical guidance on opening a basic bank account before release.
  3. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

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