How to Check Criminal Convictions: Everything You Need to Know

There are many reasons you might want to check criminal convictions in the UK. If you’re an employer, for example, checking candidates’ criminal records will help ensure that they’re safe and suitable for the role. You might also wish to check your own criminal record, or find out if someone has a history of violence or crimes against children. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about how to check for criminal records in the UK. We’ll explore who can check someone’s criminal records, the various types of criminal checks available, and how the process works. We’ll also touch upon the benefits of full background checks.

How Can I Check If Someone Has a Criminal Record (UK)?

Criminal background checks are a critical tool used to verify a person’s history and integrity. In the UK, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is the main public body responsible for carrying out criminal checks. 

A DBS check (previously known as a CRB check) shows details of an individual’s criminal history, such as unspent convictions. There are various levels and types of checks that can be conducted depending on the situation and who is requesting the information. You can request a DBS check for yourself, for an employee, or for a prospective job candidate.

As a general rule, you cannot check someone’s criminal background (other than your own) unless you are a prospective employer. However, there are two key exceptions:

  • If you want to check whether an individual may pose a risk to a child or children.
  • If you wish to find out whether your partner, or a partner of a friend or relative, has a history of violence or abuse.

In the above cases, you will need to contact the police rather than the DBS.

Checking Your Own Criminal Record

If you’re wondering how to check if you have a criminal record, you have the right to apply for a basic DBS check. This is the least detailed type of criminal background check in the UK, and provides details of unspent convictions and conditional cautions. 

You may wish to do this if you’re planning to apply for a new job, for example, and are curious about what may appear when your employer checks your criminal record.
You can request a basic DBS check for yourself online through the GOV.UK website. You’ll need to prove your identity first, and provide your address history.

Check Criminal Record as an Employer

You may need to conduct an employer criminal background check for various reasons, including safeguarding, regulatory compliance and risk management. 

Any and all employers can request a basic DBS check for a candidate. Depending on the nature of the role, you may also be able to conduct a standard criminal record check or an enhanced background check. These go into more depth than basic checks, including details of spent convictions, cautions and warnings. Enhanced checks also contain relevant information held about the individual by the police. 

For certain roles, such as those in childcare and social care, you can also check the DBS barred lists. This will reveal whether the candidate has been banned from working with children or vulnerable adults.
To check criminal convictions for a prospective employee, you should first determine which DBS check you can apply for on the GOV.UK website. Then:

  • For a basic check, contact one of the responsible organisations registered with the DBS to carry out basic checks. You may be able to do this online.
  • For standard and enhanced checks, contact a DBS umbrella body and request an application form. 

Larger organisations that need to request more than 100 checks a year can also register directly with the DBS.

Check If Someone Is a Child Sex Offender

If you are concerned about someone who has contact with a child or children, you have the right to apply to the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (CSODS), also known as Sarah’s Law. This means you can formally ask the police whether the person:

  • Has a history of child sex offences, and/or 
  • May pose a risk to the child or children for any other reason.

You do not need to be the child’s parent, guardian or carer to request criminal checks through the CSODS. Anyone can request this information if they are worried about a specific person’s behaviour toward a child or children. 
You can apply through your local police force by visiting their website, calling 101 or attending your local police station.

Check If Someone Has a Criminal History of Violence

Clare’s Law, or the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), allows individuals to formally ask the police whether a person has a history of abuse or violence. Anyone has the ‘right to ask’ if they are concerned that someone may be at risk. You can request information about your current or ex-partner, or the current or ex-partner of a family member or friend.

The information that the police will share depends on who makes the request, and their relationship to the person at risk. It may include details of crimes involving violent behaviour, sexual assault, harassment and stalking, as well as verbal and psychological abuse.

To apply to the DVDS, you can call 101, visit your local police station, or contact your local police online. If someone is in immediate danger, call 999. 

Other Types of Background Checks

It’s important to note that criminal record checks, such as DBS checks, will only reveal certain details about an individual’s criminal history. For a more comprehensive understanding of a person’s character – whether they are an employee, partner, business associate or even a tenant – it may be worth looking into a full background check service. 

At Global Investigations, our expert private investigators can uncover details of a person’s previous marriages, addresses, aliases, qualifications, employment history and more. We have a wealth of experience in background checks, and pride ourselves on our commitment to professionalism, honesty, discretion and customer service. All of our background checks are carried out in full compliance with UK data protection laws.

To find out how we can help you, contact Global Investigations today.

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