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Tag: Ways to find out about your criminal record

Step-by-step guide to applying for a basic DBS check

Aim of this page

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) started carrying out basic criminal record checks in early 2018.  We have a dedicated landing page about basic DBS checks and also some specific information about basic disclosures.

There are two ways of getting a basic check from the DBS:

  • Option 1 – Applicants can apply directly to the DBS using their online self-service channel.
  • Option 2 – Applicants can apply via their employer or other registered organisation.

This guidance is a step-by-step process if you’re applying for a basic DBS check using option 1. It has been produced following an application made by a member of the Unlock team (referred to here as “our test application”).

Verifying your identity

The DBS use GOV.UK Verify as a secure way to prove who you are online. The site states that it will take between 5 and 15 minutes to verify your identity, although in our test application it took longer than that. If you know that you’ll need to apply for a basic DBS check, it may be worth verifying your identity in advance.

To verify your identity for a basic DBS check you’ll need:

  1. All your addresses for the last 5 years and the dates you lived there
  2. Your National Insurance number
  3. A debit or credit card
  4. Proof of your identity, for example a passport, valid driving licence or birth certificate.

Based on your age, where you’ve been living in the last 12 months and the type of ID that you have available, you’ll be given a choice of companies who will be able to verify your identity (you don’t have to be an existing customer with these companies).

  • Royal Mail
  • Experian
  • Barclays
  • Citizen Safe
  • Post Office
  • Digidentity
  • Secure Identity

Important: Keep a note of the company you’ve selected together with the email and password you’ve used to register. You’ll need these if you want to apply for further checks in the future.

Once your identity has been verified you’ll receive an email confirmation from the company you’ve chosen.

The DBS online application form

The online form will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Amongst the questions asked you’ll need to give:

  • Details of your previous addresses over the last five years and the dates you lived there
  • Your full name and any other names that you have been known by.

You will not be asked to provide any details about your criminal record.

Once you’ve completed all the questions, you can chose where you would like the certificate to be sent. This can be either your home address or ‘another address’ which could be your employer.

Make sure you’re clear about where you want your certificate to be sent. If you have a criminal record and you’re not sure whether it’s spent or not, you should consider putting your address down so that it comes to you first.

Even if you’re pretty confident that your criminal record is spent, we’d still advise that you request the check is sent to you, so that you can be confident that it’s blank before passing it onto your employer.

 In our test application, we put the details of the employer (in this case, Unlock) as we understood, because we knew the person who was asking for the basic check had an unspent criminal record, that permission to send to a third party would be revoked. However, the check was still sent to the third party. We have raised this with the DBS.

At the end of the application process the DBS state that an email will be sent to you with your application reference number.

Although it’s stated that the email may take up to three days, in our test application we received one within a couple of hours of completing the online form.

Tracking your application

It’s possible to track your application using your application reference number, date of birth and your surname.

You won’t be able to find out what’s on the certificate, just the status of it.

We do have some concerns that with just the above information, employers could check the status of your certificate. Although they wouldn’t be able to see any information relating to your criminal record, if you needed to raise a query with the DBS regarding the content of your certificate, your employer could question why you’ve not handed it over if they know that the certificate has been issued.

Once the certificate is ready

As soon as your certificate is ready, you’ll receive a letter from the DBS stating that a paper version will be posted to you separately. They will also include an authorisation code for you to use to view your certificate online. The certificate will be available to view online for approximately 28 days.

To view your certificate online you will need to create an online account by visiting Once you’ve created your online account you can use the authorisation code to link to your DBS profile.

When we were working through the process, we tried setting up our online account immediately after completing the online application form which we found to be quite problematic. It may have been because at that stage, we didn’t have the authorisation code to link to our profile. We’d therefore advise that you wait until you receive the letter from the DBS with your authorisation code before trying to set up your online account.


Sharing your certificate with your employer

The majority of employers will want to see the paper version of your certificate. However, once you’ve set up your online account it’s possible to give consent to your employer to view it online by going to the ‘manage consent’ page.

If your employer doesn’t already have a DBS account, the DBS will generate a one-off code which will allow them to view the certificate online.

The online certificate can’t be copied but it can be printed as a PDF.

The paper version of the basic check

If you have elected to receive a paper copy of your certificate this will usually be sent to you within 14 days of your application.

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Disclosure and Barring Service – Government body established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
  • GOV.UK Verify – A government site providing a secure way to prove who you are online.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information basic DBS disclosures (disclosing unspent convictions), what will be disclosed on a basic DBS check? and basic DBS checks
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.




DVLA records of driving offences and how they’re shared


On this page:

Aim of this information

This information is designed to set out how motoring offences and convictions are recorded by the DVLA and what details are shared with third parties.

We have separate information about how motoring offences and motoring convictions are treated under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Why is this important?

Knowing what information an insurance company or an employer is allowed to access and what is likely to be disclosed will ensure that:-

  • You do not provide more information than third parties are entitled to and risk being unfairly discriminated against or
  • You do not fail to disclose something which you are legally required to disclose which may result in the loss of a job, a job offer being revoked or insurance policies becoming invalid.


On the 8th June 2015, the DVLA scrapped the paper counterparts for driving licences and issued photo card licences only.

The DVLA advises that:-

  • If you hold a paper counterpart, then it no longer has any legal status and should be destroyed. You only need to keep the photo card driving licence.
  • Paper licences issued before photo cards were introduced in 1998 will remain valid and should not be destroyed.

Any new penalty points (endorsements) issued from the 8th June 2015 will be recorded electronically only. This information will be held on your DVLA driver record and can be viewed online via the DVLA’s Shared Driving Licence Service.

How can I access details of my driving record?

The DVLA’s Shared Driving Licence service will continue to hold information for the same length of time as paper licences did. The length of time a motoring offence stays on your licence is governed by road traffic legislation and will generally be either 4 or 11 years. This is entirely separate to the time it takes for motoring convictions to become spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

You can use the DVLA Shared Driving Licence Service to:-

  • View your driving record, e.g. which vehicles you can drive
  • Check any penalty points or disqualifications you have
  • Create a licence ‘check code’ to share your driving record with a third party, i.e. a car hire company or employer.

How can third parties access details of my driving record?


If your employer asks you to provide evidence of your driving record (for example, because you drive as part of your job or you will have access to a company car) then it is possible for you to share your driving record by accessing the DVLA Shared Driving Licence Service.

Once you have accessed the DVLA site, it is possible to generate a ‘check code’ which you can then pass on to the person or organisation that needs to view your driving licence details. The code lasts for up to 21 days and you can have up to 15 active check codes at any one time. Alternatively, there are other ways codes can be generated.

Based on our understanding, it seems like your employer will not be able to see details of any offences or endorsements where the motoring conviction the offence relates to has become spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

For this reason, it is important that if you have motoring convictions still on your driver record but these are technically spent, that you provide the employer with a ‘code’ to enable them to check your driving record (which should remove the spent convictions) rather than you print a copy of your driving record and give it to them (which will might have the spent convictions on there due to DVLA retention periods).

Car hire companies

You should check with individual car hire companies about what information they require. If you are asked for evidence of what vehicles you can drive or confirmation of any penalty points then you can generate a ‘check code’ from the DVLA Shared Driving Licence Service which you can pass onto the hire company. As above, it seems like this will remove details of any offences or endorsements where the motoring conviction the offence relates to has become spent.   

Generating ‘check codes’

When generating ‘check codes’, you will be given the option to download a summary of your driving licence record which can be printed off and given to employers or car hire companies. We wouldn’t recommend this option as you will be printing your full record and potentially disclosing spent as well as unspent motoring convictions to employers and car hire companies.

Insurance companies

During 2015 many insurance companies rolled out MyLicence (the brand name for the Insurance Industry Access to Driver Data database) which provides details of:-

  • Type of licence held
  • Length of time the licence has been held
  • Entitlements to drive
  • Penalty points
  • Convictions and conviction dates
  • Disqualifications

It is not currently used by all insurers, brokers or price comparison websites but those who do use it will ask you to provide them with your driving licence number and the driving licence number for all named drivers. This information is used to immediately check details with the DVLA driver database.

MyLicence will not share the details of spent convictions, even if they remain on your driving record.

What does this mean for people with motoring convictions?

  • The DVLA Shared Driving Licence service will continue to hold information for the same time as paper licences and in accordance with road traffic legislation. However, convictions which are spent under the ROA should not be disclosed to employers and car hire companies through the ‘check codes’ process.
  • If you’ve got motoring convictions on your record, it’s more likely that you’ll get found out if you don’t disclose them when required to do so, particularly if the conviction is unspent and you’re applying for insurance as many insurance companies and brokers may ask your permission to access your driver records from the MyLicence site.
  • It’s important to remember that you do not need to disclose spent convictions to an insurer, even if they remain on your driving record.

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information – More information on motoring convictions and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 can be found here.
  2. Discuss the issue – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Get involved

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us.
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum

Enforced subject access


‘Enforced subject access’ (under section 184 of the Data Protection Act 2018) prevents employers from requiring people to use their subject access rights under the DPA to provide certain records, such as police records, as a condition of employment. It also prevents contracts from requiring certain records as a condition for providing or receiving a service, such as housing or insurance. Requiring people to provide these records will become a criminal offence, punishable by a fine. In England and Wales the maximum financial penalty on summary conviction in the magistrates’ court is £5,000 (soon to be unlimited). On indictment in the Crown Court the fine can be unlimited.

We’ve long argued that section 184 needs to be brought into force, but this wasn’t ever possible until reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 were brought in on the 10thMarch 2014. Section 184 came into force on the 10th March 2015.

For people with convictions, this is an important development. Although it doesn’t prevent employers and others from getting access to criminal records through legitimate means, what section 56 does do is prevent the use of significant amounts of sensitive personal data that can be disclosed as part of a subject access request.

In the past, we’ve come across examples where employers, insurers, education providers and housing providers have required people provide copies of their police record by applying to the police and paying £10 for a subject access request. This type of request discloses all information held on the Police National Computer, including convictions and cautions that are spent, as well as allegations or other ‘local police information’.

The introduction of section 184 will enable a clearer message to be given to any organisation that is found to be undertaking this type of practice. The legislation only allows requirements of this type where the record is required by law or is justified in the public interest.

Frequently asked questions

No. It means that an employer can’t make you do a ‘subject access request’ under the Data Protection Act to get a copy of your police record.

Depending on the job, an employer will still be able (if they wish) to require you to undergo a basic, standard or enhanced criminal record check.

What you should do will depend on the reason for the request. For example, if it’s for a job that would be eligible for a standard or enhanced check, then you might advise them of that. If not, then it might be that they’re only allowed to ask you to do a basic disclosure. Ultimately, you should be able to refuse to do it. Use the guidance above to help you. Either way, if you have evidence of them requiring you to do an enforced subject access, send us the details.

This is the phrase that is used to describe the process of obtaining a copy of the records that organisations hold on you. In this context, it’s mainly referring to you obtaining a copy of your police record.

Yes. This means that insurers will no longer require you to provide a copy of your police record. Instead, if they do require any form of official record of unspent convictions, they may ask you to consent to a basic disclosure.

Yes. It applies to any individual or organisation that ‘requires’ you to do a subject access request. For example, housing associations will no longer be able to require you to obtain a copy of your police record.

Yes. In guidance to schools it’s been made clear that they cannot require individuals to obtain police records of either themselves or those that live or work in the same household as them.

Yes. Under the 2003 Licensing Act Guidance (4.6) Regulations, in order to substantiate whether or not an applicant has a conviction for an unspent relevant offence, a licensing authority can, for the granting of a personal licence request a criminal conviction certificate, a criminal record certificate (both of these are basic DBS checks), or the results of a subject access search of the Police National Computer by the National Identification Service to the licensing authority. This means that whilst an enforced subject access request is now illegal, it can be requested for the granting of a personal licence. We would always recommend that when applying for a personal licence, you provide a basic DBS check rather than a SAR which would disclose the details of all convictions rather than just those which are unspent.

Other useful resources

ICO guidance on enforced subject access requests

ICO news release on the 9th March 2015

Basic DBS checks

About Basic DBS checks

Official name

Criminal Conviction Certificate (often known as a ‘Basic DBS disclosure’ or ‘Basic DBS check’)

Issued by

Disclosure and Barring Service or Access NI


It is commonly used for employment positions covered by the ROA. It’s also used in other situations (e.g. insurance claims) where you might need to provide proof of your unspent convictions.

What it contains

Essentially, it contains unspent convictions. For guidance on whether your conviction is unspent, click here.

For checks carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service the certificate will include all unspent convictions recorded on the Police National Computer, the Scottish Criminal History System and the Criminal Record Viewer (Northern Ireland Conviction System).  For Access NI it is the Police National Computer and the Criminal Record Viewer.

For each conviction it includes the date of conviction, the court, the offence committed, the date of offence and the sentence/disposal.

Note – The details surrounding the sentence/disposal can sometimes come as a surprise, as many people don’t realise exactly what formed part of the ‘sentence’ that they received, such as certain disqualifications, fines or prohibitions.

There is more detail about how certain sentences, disposals and other penalties are treated on basic DBS disclosures further down this page.

The example below shows what a basic DBS disclosure looks like when revealing unspent convictions.

How to apply

There are two ways of applying for a basic DBS check:

You can apply for a basic check by going directly to the DBS via their online self-service channel.

Key points:

  • It costs £18.
  • Your identity will be verified either by GOV.UK Verify or by the Post Office.
  • You provide all the information online.
  • It does not have the option to give a 3rd party consent to view the check.
  • It does not provide eResults to any intermediary or employer (as you have applied directly).
  • You can choose to have your paper certificate sent to a 3rd party.

You can apply for a basic check through an organisation that is registered with the DBS. Referred to by the DBS as a “Responsible Organisation (RO), an employer or other intermediary could be registered with the DBS. These are allowed to submit applications for basic checks via a DBS web service. The DBS has guidance on the organisation that can be used.

Key points:

  • The cost will vary – it will cost £18 plus whatever extra cost is charged by the intermediary. This might be covered by the employer.
  • An employer will need to be registered with the DBS themselves, or use an intermediary that is registered, to get a basic DBS check through this route.
  • There is a list of these organisations, and the DBS call centre can advise of the latest ones.
  • Only one paper check is issued – if the applicant consents, the paper check can be sent to an alternative address, such as the employer’s address.
  • There will be an eResult sent to the registered organisation.
  • The check will be available online – known as an eCertificate.
  • The registered organisation will:
  1. Be responsible for collecting the information about you and verifying your identity.
  2. Be able to check the status online.
  3. Be able to request an electronic (eResult)

Who can apply for it

You (or somebody on your behalf, with your consent)

[toggle title=”Click here for more information on who can apply for it”]

Legally it is the individual who applies, although third parties do submit applications on behalf of individuals. Sometimes, employers will ask applicants to put the employer’s address as a ‘care of’ address so that it’s sent straight to whoever is undertaking pre-employment checks and the Disclosure and Barring Service will facilitate this.


Contact details

Find out about the contact details of Disclosure and Barring Service
Find out about the contact details of Access NI


£18 (Disclosure and Barring Service) £26 (Access NI)
The cost is sometimes covered by the organisation requiring it.

Where it is sent

To you, although you can choose for it to be sent to an employer as part of the application process, though in this situation you won’t receive a copy.

If you’re applying for a job at a new company and it involves a basic DBS disclosure, you might want to be aware that a high proportion of basic applications that employers apply for go via the ‘bulk electronic’ process which is likely to mean that although the disclosure will be addressed to you, it will be sent to the employer’s address. This may result in the employer opening it, particularly if you have given your consent for them to do this. Other employers might simply request that you apply for the disclosure, but put their address down as the ‘care of’ address. This makes it even more important that you make sure that you find out about your criminal record before applying for specific roles.

How long it takes

Within 14 calendar days

How certain disposals are treated

This section provides some details on how certain disposals are treated on basic DBS disclosures. This section should be read alongside our detailed guide on working out whether convictions are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Technically, a compensation order does not become spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act until it is paid in full.

However, in practice the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will consider a compensation order as paid in full if it:

  1. was for an amount of less than £100; or
  2. is over 6 years old

If your compensation is for either of the above, it means that your basic check will be processed without you having to provide proof of payment of the compensation.

If your compensation order was for more than £100 or is less than six years old, then you’ll need to provide the DBS with proof that it has been paid in full.

If you didn’t get this at the time of paying it, you should be able to get something from the court at a later stage. In England and Wales, you can obtain a letter of confirmation from the court when any compensation order has been paid in full. The DBS have also confirmed that they will accept copies of emails sent to you by the court so long as the email relates specifically to the compensation order and confirms that payment has been made in full. There is guidance in the magistrates’ courts’ staff manual as to the wording to be used by courts in a proof of payment letter relating to compensation orders.

A copy of that letter or email should be provided to the Disclosure and Barring Service either with your application or separately in confidence if your application is being submitted via a third party.

To submit proof of payment independently of submitting an application, you can send it:

You should quote your application barcode or reference number, or your name, current address, and date of birth in your communication.

Once you’ve submitted proof once, the Disclosure and Barring Service should keep this on file in case you have to apply for a further disclosure in the future.

It’s important to note that if the DBS see that a compensation order is holding a conviction back from being spent, they should write to you asking whether you have any proof of payment.

If you end up receiving your basic check without providing proof and the compensation order is on there, you’ll probably have to make another application, alongside your proof of payment, to have another one issued.

This is something that we are challenging, as we don’t believe that the system of having to provide proof is workable or fair. It’s not particularly clear when you apply for a basic DBS disclosure that you have to provide this proof, and many people don’t even realise they have a compensation order.

Orders for disqualification from working with children under section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 are not treated as ‘sentences’ as such, and so do not impact on whether the conviction appears on the basic DBS disclosure. It’s the ‘sentence’ that is used. So if you received a 3 year prison sentence, and an indefinite/lifetime disqualification, it would be the 3 year sentence that would be used to work out how long the conviction appeared on the basic DBS disclosure.

If the conviction remains unspent, the Disclosure and Barring Service are currently disclosing the fact that somebody is subject to the notification requirements. The length of time subject to these should not be taken into account when deciding whether the conviction is spent, but if it is unspent, it might be disclosed. This is something that we are challenging.

How to correct inaccurate information

For the Disclosure and Barring Service, email or write to the Disclosure and Barring Service, PO Box 165, Liverpool L69 3JD

For Access NI, you should write to the Department of Justice, Block B, Castle Building, Stormont Estate, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT4 3SG
You have 90 days from the date of issue of a certificate to raise a dispute.

DBS Subject Access Requests

You’re entitled to know if the DBS holds any information about you and if so, to be provided with a copy of that information. This process is referred to as a Subject Access Request.

Other information

Basic criminal record checks by the DBS – transition of basic checks from Disclosure Scotland to the DBS


Standard DBS checks

What are standard checks

Standard checks (officially known as Standard Criminal Record Certificates) are a type of criminal record check that can be used by employers when recruiting staff for jobs which are included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.

They are issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) using information from the Police National Computer (PNC).

What are they used for?

Employers recruiting for certain positions which are included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 can request standard checks. This includes for example, people wanting to be approved by the Security Industry Authority or anybody applying to become a solicitor or barrister. We have more information on the eligibility for standard and enhanced checks.

What information does it contain?

A standard certificate will include both spent and unspent convictions[1], held on the PNC which are not eligible for filtering. For each conviction, it will include:

  • the date of conviction
  • details of the court where you appeared
  • details of the offence committed
  • the date of offence
  • the sentence/disposal given.

How standard checks are applied for

It is not possible to apply for a standard check on yourself.

An employer can only request a standard check if the role applied for is eligible. If the employer carries out less than 100 checks per year, they will use a registered body (acting as an umbrella body) to apply for the check on their behalf. An employer will need your consent before they can apply for a standard check.

Applications can be made by post or online.

Online applications

The majority of registered bodies sign up to the DBS e-bulk service which allows them to submit applications and receive the results electronically. This generally reduces the time it takes for the check to be processed.

Once the check has been processed, the DBS will immediately send a notification to the registered body.

  • Where the DBS certificate contains information the registered body will receive an electronic notification to “await the paper certificate”.
  • Where all fields on the DBS certificate are blank, the registered body will receive an electronic notification which will state “Certificate contains no information”.

The DBS will send the certificate directly to you.

What’s the cost?

The cost of the check is £18 (free to volunteers), although there is often a charge by an umbrella body to undertake the check on behalf of an employer, if the employer is not a registered body.

How long does it take?

Approximately 10 working days

Where will it be sent?

The certificate will usually be sent to you unless you have signed a waiver, requesting it to be sent to your employer.

An anonymous example of a standard certificate

Standard copy 1

What can you do if the certificate contains incorrect or inaccurate information?

If your certificate contains inaccurate personal information, for example your name, date of birth or address, you will need to raise a data entry dispute with the DBS. Further details can be found on the DBS website.

However, if your conviction details are incorrect or inaccurate, you will need to raise a data source dispute. This can be done online (you complete the form electronically, print it out and then submit it by post). Alternatively, you can request a dispute form by post by ringing the DBS on 03000 200 190.

DBS Subject Access Requests

You’re entitled to know if the DBS holds any information about you and if so, to be provided with a copy of that information. This process is referred to as a Subject Access Request.


[1] Use of the word ‘convictions’ in this case refers to convictions, cautions, warnings and final reprimands. It does not include fixed penalty notices, penalty notices for disorder, or any other police or other out-of-court disposal.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found at criminal record checks for employment
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Police certificate


Police certificate

Issued by

The National Police Chiefs’ Council Criminal Records Office (often referred to as ACRO)


For individuals that wish to emigrate to a number of countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cayman Islands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States of America.

They are also used to obtain a visa for immigration purposes (e.g. travel to the US for tourism purposes)

What it contains

All convictions, reprimands, warnings and cautions recorded on UK Police systems, although it doesn’t disclose anything that is eligible to be ‘stepped down’. Read more about this below and see the guidelines that set out when things are stepped down.

How to apply

Visit the Police Certificate section of the ACRO website to view the application form and guidance notes.

Who can apply for it

Anyone who has lived in the UK for any length of time, regardless of nationality

Contact details

A: ACRO (SAO), PO Box 623, Fareham, Hampshire, PO14 9HR
T: 02380 479 920


£55 (standard service) and £95 (premium service)

How long it takes

The standard service takes 10 working days and the premium service takes 2 working days, not including dates of receipt or dispatch.

However, if you are due to travel shortly, ACRO suggest that you may want to consider the premium service. However, if you have an arrest/conviction on your record and are using a police certificate to go through an approval process (such as applying for a visa to travel to the US), it is unlikely that, at such short notice, you will be able to complete the other steps in the process.

Where it is sent

It is sent to the applicant at the address requested on the application form

A sample certificate

Click the image above to increase the size.  

How to correct inaccurate information

If you feel the information is inaccurate, you will need to contact your local Police Force outlining the inaccurate information. Each Chief Police Officer is the Data Controller for their PNC record, and has the ability to delete information. There is an exceptional case procedure, but this is normally confined to deleting local police information.

My police certificate doesn’t contain some details that it should / I’ve got a ‘No Live Trace’; what should I do?

If you have been arrested and/or convicted in the UK and your Police Certificate states “No Trace” or “No Live Trace” (or does not list in full your arrests/convictions), you might still be required to provide details (e.g. when applying for a visa). You may want to apply to the individual court to obtain a record of all convictions and any charges pending.

‘No Trace’ means that you have no convictions, reprimands, final warnings or cautions held on the Police National Computer.

‘No Live Trace’ means that there is criminal record information held on the Police National Computer but it has been ‘stepped down‘.  Anyone who sees this and understands this phrase can assume that you have a criminal record from the past, even if they can’t see the details. If this applies to you, we advise that you contact ACRO to obtain details of the conviction information that was not disclosed on your Certificate.  If you have requested a Police Certificate for travel purposes, many Embassies will require this detail in order to make a decision on whether or not they should issue you with a visa.  Once you receive the undisclosed information from ACRO you will be required to contact the relevant Embassy and disclose your previous conviction/s.

Once the Embassy has this information they will contact ACRO to verify that the conviction details you have provided them with are correct.  They will do this in the form of an email quoting what details you have provided and asking ACRO to confirm whether it is correct or not.  ACRO can only confirm or deny what has been related by the Embassy.  If the information you have provided isn’t correct, the Embassy will ask you to contact ACRO again in order to go through your conviction details so they can be re-submitted to the relevant Embassy.

The Embassies use this process to gauge honesty and integrity and whether you have presented yourself as someone of general good character.


Can I get “No Live Trace” changed to “No Trace”?

Probably not. As mentioned in the question above, people with “No Live Trace” can be concerned that others will know that this means they have a criminal records.

The step-down process is not set out in legislation – so ACRO do not legally have to operate it. For police certificates, the alternative would be a certificate that contained all convictions and cautions. Unfortunately, we think that any challenge to the fact that “No Live Trace” suggests there is a criminal record on file is unlikely to be successful.


Other information

  • Applications for other countries may be accepted subject to confirmation by the applicant of acceptance by the relevant Embassy, High Commission or requiring organisation
  • ACRO are currently piloting this initiative, which provides police certificates for visa purposes. This police certificate is issued solely for immigration purposes and shows details of arrests and convictions. It covers the whole of the United Kingdom and is sent to the address provided at the time of the application. It is different to a Subject Access Request (SAR), which can be used to find out any details held on the Police National Computer, including allegations
  • More information about Police Certificates is available here
  • ACRO still apply the principles of the step-down process when processing Police Certificates. More information on step-down is available here


International Child Protection Certificate (for working overseas)


International Child Protection Certificate

Issued by

ACPO Criminal Records Office


It is for UK nationals and residents that are working overseas. It is designed for organisations that are unable to get a Disclosure & Barring Service certificate, because these can only be done by organisations that are linked to a UK registered body that have access to a DBS check.

What it contains

It checks the PNC (E&W), Criminal History System (Scotland), Causeway (Northern Ireland).

It will contain all convictions and cautions, unless they have been stepped down, when the certificate will show “No Live Trace”.

It will also contain any pending prosecutions you may have.

How to apply

You can download the application form from the ACRO website.

Who can apply for it?

You as an individual apply for it. It gets sent back to you.



How long does it take

10 days.

Where is it sent

To you as an individual.

Other information

If an applicant for an ICPC is found to have a record indicating a sexual interest in children, the application will be referred to the NCA’s CEOP Command to deal with in line with usual operating procedures prior to any certificate being issued. At the moment, we have very little evidence about how this element works in practice.

Magistrate Court record


Magistrate Court record

Issued by

The Magistrate Court that you were convicted and/or sentenced at


For official details of the outcome of a case that you were involved in. It is particularly useful if you have only ever been to court once.

What it contains

Written or oral information about certain material in a case file, or copies of any documents served to the court by you or served to you by the court, or information about any direction or order directed to you, or made on an application by you, or information about the outcome of the case.

If the court permits, any further information that the court holds may be supplied, but this additional information must be specifically requested.  See Criminal Procedure Rules 2012, Part 5, here

How to apply

By making an application directly to the court officer of the issuing court, specifying the information or document required, and paying any prescribed fee. You should make the application in writing, and explain why you want the information. In certain instances, a request may be made orally and information also given orally by the court to the applicant.

Who can apply for it

A person who is, or was a party to a particular court case

Contact details

The convicting/sentencing court. Click here to use the HM Courts & Tribunals Services Court Finder


Free of charge currently

How long it takes

Between 5 to 10 working days from the time of the application being received by the court

Where it is sent

To you only

Link to anonymous example

Not available

How to correct inaccurate information

You would need to write to the court of sentence, outlining the areas you wish to have amended, and providing as much information as possible in order that this can be checked against the court register or file

Other information

  • This will only contain case-specific information from the convicting court, and so does not necessarily reflect your entire criminal record.
  • A Memorandum of Conviction may be more appropriate for certain categories of applicants and may be issued to a specified person for a specified purpose. It will usually contain key details of a conviction. Subject to any legislative requirements, a person who wants such a certificate must apply in writing to the court officer, specify the certificate or extract that is required, explain under what legislation and for what purpose it is required, and pay any prescribed fee (this is currently £60). A certificate will only contain information held by the convicting court. See Criminal Procedure Rules 2012, Part 5, here.
  • The supply of court records may also be subject to varying legislative provisions and these will be considered before the court agrees to release any information to an applicant.


Police records – Subject access request

The easiest and cheapest way to find out your criminal record is to apply for a copy of your police records from the Police.

You’re entitled to exercise your rights to obtain information that is held about you under the Data Protection Act 1998. This process is known as a Subject Access Request.

Although this relates to lots of different government agencies, in relation to the police, a subject access request is your right of access to verify the information held about you on police computers.

A subject access request to the Police National Computer will either provide a certificate stating that there is currently no information held about you on the Police National Computer, or it will provide a list of all the information held on the computer including all convictions, whether they are spent or unspent.

You can also choose to ask to see what is held locally by the Police. This can include arrests, allegations, and Not Guilty findings

This page will explain this in more detail.


Police Subject Access Request  (often referred to as “Police records” )

Issued by

Local police force (or ACRO, who disclose PNC data on behalf of most forces) under the Data Protection Act 1998


To establish what information the Police hold on you for your own purposes to ensure that police information is accurate.

What it contains

Details of all personal information which the Police hold on you, including what is held on the PNC and what is held on local police records (depending on what information you ask to see)

How to apply

  • You can apply via your local Police Force. Each police force normally has a form to complete, which is usually available online but can also be requested in writing.
  • ACRO provides Subject Access disclosures from the Police National Computer on behalf of most police forces in England and Wales (apart from Derbyshire, Gwent and Sussex), Northern Ireland, Jersey and the Isle of Man.  Requests can be made by post or online. Details of both can be found here. ACRO also have a useful further guidance page providing additional information on SAR’s.
  • If you want a copy of all of your personal data, you should make sure that you request to see both PNC data and any information held locally by your local police force.

If you apply online via ACRO, you can choose to get the details sent by email.


Who can apply for it

You only.

You should not be required by anybody else to provide a copy of your police records to them. If this happens, you should read our guidance on enforced subject access.

Contact details

You will need to contact the Data Protection team at your local Police Force. Links are available here. Many requests relate to information held on the PNC, and the majority of these are dealt with by ACRO. Their contact details are below:

A: ACRO (SAO), PO Box 623, Fareham, Hampshire, PO14 9HR

T: 02380 479 920


Free of charge.

How long it takes

Within one calendar month.

Where it is sent

To you only. Subject Access disclosures (Police records) are not designed to be used by employers as the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act are not applied (see ‘Other information’)

Link to anonymous examples

SAR (PNC) front page
Click above image to go to a readable version of this letter and four examples pages of a Police Record – SAR.

How to correct inaccurate information

If you feel the information in inaccurate, you will need to contact the police force who holds the information outlining the inaccurate information. Each Chief Police Officer is the Data Controller for their PNC record, and has the ability to delete information. There is an exceptional case procedure, but this is normally confined to deleting local police information such as allegations.

Enforced subject access

It was announced in early 2014 that the final elements of the Police Act 1997 will take effect. With this comes the news that enforced subject access will be a criminal offence. This came into force on 10th March 2015. Read more here.

Prison records


Prison Subject Access Request (often referred to as “Prison Records”)

Issued by

Ministry of Justice Data Access & Compliance Unit


To establish what information prisons (including the Governor, security department, education staff and the healthcare department) have on their files about you

What it contains

Details of all personal information which the Prison Service holds on their records about you. This includes details of transfers and parole dossier information along with the activities you were involved in whilst being housed in each of these establishments

How to apply

In writing to the Ministry of Justice Data Access and Compliance Unit

Who can apply for it

You only

Contact details

A: Ministry of Justice, Data Access and Compliance Unit (DACU), Postal Point 10.31, Floor 10, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ


Free. However, they can charge a reasonable fee for administrative costs if they think the request is ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive’.

How long it takes

Approximately 40 working days

Where it is sent

To you only

Link to anonymous example

Not available

How to correct inaccurate information

You would need to write to the Data Access and Compliance Unit, highlighting the particular area of the file you take issue with. If you have any further information or documentation which supports your request then this should also be enclosed along with your covering letter. Upon receipt a confirmation letter will be sent, and a letter detailing the outcome will follow

Other information

If you are a serving prisoner you should enclose an authority for the DACU to deduct the £10 fee from your prisoner monies account and sufficient details to enable the DACU to trace your records.  This should include your full name, date of birth, prison number and name of the prison you currently reside in. If you have served a previous custodial sentence you should also provide details of your time in custody relating to this period.  If you are currently in prison, you may be able to make the application internally. More details are available in PSI 44/2014.

If you have been released from prison, you should provide details of your time in custody which should include your full name, date of birth, prison number, dates and name of the prison(s) you were held in.  You will also need to include the relevant fee and ID.

Acceptable forms of ID include photocopies of recent utility bills (not more than 6 months old) or bank statements or photocopies of the photograph page of a passport or driving licence.

If you are requesting personal data on another person’s behalf, you will need to satisfy the above criteria plus include a signed consent from the person who the data concerns.

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