We use a number of phrases and acronyms on this site. We try to explain their meaning wherever we mention them, but below is a list of the most common ones that we use.
If you find a term that is used on the site that you think should be explained in this section, please let us know.
Approved information – This is a technical phrase. See ‘police intelligence’ for more information.
Basic check – These are issued by Disclosure Scotland and follow the laws of England & Wales (if that’s where it’s applied from). It produces a disclosure certificate that details unspent criminal conviction information.
Caution – A caution is not a conviction. It is a formal warning, usually given in a police station, by a senior police officer, after a person has admitted an offence. As ‘accepting’ a caution is an admission of guilt, cautions are recorded on the PNC. Cautions for people aged 17 and under used to be called ‘reprimands’ and ‘final warnings’ – see ‘Youth cautions’ for more information.
Check – Basic, standard or enhanced (or ‘criminal record check’). This refers to the process of applying for a criminal record disclosure certificate, whether it be a basic, standard or enhanced one.
Child – The Criminal Justice Court Service Act (CJCSA) defines a child as someone who is under 18 (under 16 if the child is employed). Also as defined in s.60 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
Conviction – A conviction is a finding (or admission) of guilt in a criminal court. You may not necessarily have attended the court in person, but you should have received paperwork from the court providing details of the offence.
Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) – In December 2012, the CRB was merged with the ISA. See ‘Disclosure and Barring Service’ for more information.
Criminal record – There is no standard definition of a ‘criminal record’. However, where we use this phrase on this site, we are normally referring to information which is held on the Police National Computer’s ‘nominal record’ – which is primarily, for our purposes, convictions and cautions. If something is not held on the PNC, it may be recorded on local police records. See ‘police intelligence’ for more information.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – The DBS was launched in December 2012 after the CRB and the ISA were merged. They are a non-departmental public body of the Home Office, and responsible for processing standard and enhanced certificates on behalf of employers, as well as making decisions as to whether an individual should be placed on, or remove from, the barred lists for working with children or vulnerable adults.
Disclosure certificate (or ‘criminal record disclosure certificate’) – This refers to the ‘product’ which is produced as a result of an application for either a basic, standard or enhanced check.
Disclosure Scotland – This is the equivalent of the Disclosure and Barring Service but for Scotland. They also currently issue basic checks for applicants in England & Wales.
Disposal – This is an outcome of a case that wasn’t a sentence at court. This includes cautions, reprimands and final warnings.
Enforced subject access – Under current legislation, you can exercise your right to apply for access to information held on you (including criminal record information) under the ‘subject access’ provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. Currently, some employers seek to obtain this information about employees and potential employees by compelling them to exercise their rights under the Data Protection Act. This process is known as ‘Enforced Subject Access’ and is undesirable because details of all convictions are revealed. Most employers are not entitled to ask for this information under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974.
Enhanced check – For a position to be eligible for an enhanced check, it must be contained within the ROA Exceptions Order as well as also being a position which is listed in regulations made under the Police Act 1997.
Enhanced certificate – An enhanced certificate reveals all that a standard certificate does, with the additional ability to disclose relevant local police information and information from other agencies, as well as information as to whether the person is included in a list of people barred from working in regulated activity in relation to children and / or adults (if eligible and requested for the position).
Excepted position – These are positions of trust and responsibility set out in the Exceptions Order 1975, where an employer is entitled to ask a candidate about spent cautions and convictions that are not yet ‘filtered’.
Exempted question – An exempted question is a valid request for a person to reveal spent cautons and convictions (except those that are ‘filtered’) and is possible in those positions which are contained in the Exceptions Order.
Final warning – A final warning is a formal procedure similar to a caution, but for people aged 17 and under. It is not a sentence, nor it is a criminal conviction, but does involve an admission of guilt. It is given as a second formal warning (the first being a reprimand). Final warnings were abolished in April 2013 and replaced by ‘Youth cautions’.
Filtering – This was introduced by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2013. Previously, all convictions and cautions held on the PNC were disclosed on standard and enhanced checks until the person reaches 100 years old. From the 29th May 2013, this amendment means that certain minor cautions and convictions were removed (or ‘filtered’) from standard and enhanced checks.
Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) – In December 2012, the ISA was merged with the CRB. See ‘Disclosure and Barring Service’ for more information.
Local police records – see ‘Police intelligence’ for more information.
Mitigating circumstances – These are reasons that might help to explain why you committed the offences that led to you getting a criminal record.
Police Act 1997 – This is the piece of legislation that brought about the DBS; Part V of which refers specifically to the process.
Police intelligence – An enhanced certificate may contain ‘approved information’. This is local police information provided by the police from their local records. The Chief Police Officer in each force will decide what, if any, information to provide. The DBS will print this information on the copy that is sent to the applicant.
Police National Computer (PNC) – This is a national police system that contains information about criminal records i.e. convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings. The data held on PNC records is owned by individual police forces.
Protected caution/conviction – This is a technical phrase which refers to a caution or conviction that is eligible to be filtered. Once it is eligible to be filtered, it becomes known as being ‘protected’. This means it won’t be disclosed on a standard or enhanced certificate.
Registered body – Organisations that have registered directly with the DBS to use its services. Each Registered body has at least one countersignatory.
Regulated activity – This is work that a ‘barred’ person is not allowed to do. It is illegal for a person who has been barred from working with children, adults or both to apply for roles that are defined as regulated activity with the group that they’re barred from working with. The definition of regulated activity is set out in Schedule 4 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Any position which is regarded as ‘regulated activity’ is entitled to conduct an enhanced check which includes a check of the DBS barred lists as appropriate for the position.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). The ROA enables some criminal convictions to become ‘spent’ (or ignored) after a ‘rehabilitation period’. However, positions that carry out standard or enhanced check applications are exempt from this Act, which allows them to ask for spent convictions too.
Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975 – This Order sets out those professions, occupations and positions exempt from the provisions of the ROA. These are generally positions of trust, where there is a valid need to see a person’s full criminal history in order to assess their suitability for a position. Positions that fit within these criteria are entitled to ask an exempted question, and will be able to undertake at least a standard check.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2013 – This introduced the ‘filtering’ provisions (see above).
Rehabilitation period – This is a set length of time, currently from the date of conviction. After this period, with certain exceptions, you are not normally obliged to mention the conviction, for example when applying for a job or obtaining insurance.
Reprimand – A reprimand is a formal procedure similar to a caution, but for people aged 17 and under. It is not a sentence, nor it is a criminal conviction, but does involve an admission of guilt. Reprimands were abolished in April 2013 and replaced by ‘Youth cautions’.
Self-disclosure – This is the process of you telling somebody about your criminal record.
Sentence – This is a punishment given by a court.
Spent conviction – Once the rehabilitation period has expired and no further offending has taken place, a conviction is considered to be ‘spent’. Once a conviction has been spent, you do not have to reveal it or admit its existence in most circumstances, including when applying for a job (unless it is an excepted position). It is against the law for an organisation to obtain information about an individuals’ spent convictions/cautions, unless authorised by law to ask an ‘exempted question’, usually relating to someone applying for a job that is not covered by the ROA.
Standard check – A standard check reveals all convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings that are held on the Police National Computer, regardless of whether they are spent or not, unless they are eligible to be ‘filtered’. Positions that are exempt from the ROA are eligible for a standard check. These positions are defined in the ROA Exceptions Order, which lists occupations, professions and positions considered to be exempt from the ROA.
Subject access request – Under current legislation, you can exercise your right to apply for access to information held on you including criminal record information under the ‘subject access’ provisions of Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998. ACPO Criminal Records Office provides a service for the majority of police forces to provide PNC records. If you would also like details of ‘police intelligence’ which may be disclosed on an enhanced check, you can apply for your ‘full nominal record’.
UK – We use this term collectively to include employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, on technical matters involving legislation, this site is specific to the laws in England & Wales. See our disclaimer for more information.
Umbrella Body – A Registered body that provides access to the DBS to other non-registered organisations.
Unspent conviction – A conviction is described as unspent if the rehabilitation period associated with it has not yet lapsed.
Vulnerable adult – The definition of ‘vulnerable adult’ is contained in section 60 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
Youth cautions – These are similar to cautions, but for those under the age of 18. They involve an admission of guilt.
ACPO – Association of Chief Police Officers
ACRO – ACPO Criminal Records Office
CAB – Citizens Advice Bureau
CCCS – Consumer Credit Counselling Services
CJS – Criminal Justice System
CPS – Crown Prosecution Service
CPU – Child Protection Unit
CRB – Criminal Records Bureau (see DBS)
CSODS – Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
CUE – Claims and Underwriting Exchange
DBS – Disclosure and Barring Service
DE – Department for Education
DH – Department for Health
DPA – Data Protection Act 1998
DWP – Department for Work and Pensions
FOI – Freedom Of Information
FPN – Fixed Penalty Notice
FSA – Financial Services Authority
HDC – Home Detention Curfew
HMPS – Her Majesty’s Prison Service
IPP – Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection
IPCC – Independent Police Complaints Commission
ISA – Independent Safeguarding Authority
MAPPA – Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements
MOJ or MoJ – Ministry Of Justice
NOMS – National Offender Management Service
NPIA – National Policing Improvement Agency
OASys – Offender Assessment System
PI – Probation Instruction
PNC – Police National Computer
PND – Penalty Notice for Disorder
PO (1) – Probation Officer
PO (2) – Personal Officer (in Prison)
PPU – Public Protection Unit
PRT – Prison Reform Trust
PSI – Prison Service Instruction
PSO – Prison Service Order or Probation Service Order
ROA – Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
RSOTP – Rolling Sex Offenders Treatment Programme
SAR – Subject Access Request
SHPO – Sexual Harm Prevention Order
SOPO – Sexual Offences Prevention Order
SOR – Sex Offenders Register
SOTP – Sex Offenders Treatment Programme
SRO – Sexual Risk Order
SPSA – Scottish Police Services Authority
SVGA – Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
VBS – Vetting and Barring Scheme
ViSOR – Violent and Sex Offenders Register
VPU – Vunerable Prisoners Unit
YO – Young Offender