CRB & DBS Checks – to what degree can you trust them??

Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) & Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) checks

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was formed when the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority. It is effectively an executive arm of the Home Office. This is the part of the government who complete checks against police (and other) official databases to discover if anything is known about an applicant that might influence a decision to employ them – or not. Let me make this perfectly clear – there is a real and compelling need to protect our children and vulnerable adults from those who cannot be trusted. However, that decision by employers MUST be based upon reliable information. If it is not, or if all of the available and reliable information is not properly considered – then you may ask what exactly is the point of the CRB/DBS?

In simple terms, there are 3 types of check depending upon the type of job (including voluntary work) you are applying for and/or when you apply to adopt a child.

Standard– These checks are primarily for posts that involve working with children or vulnerable adults. Standard checks may also be issued for people entering certain professions, such as members of the legal and accountancy professions. The Standard check contains details of ALL convictions held on the PNC including current and ‘spent’ convictions as well as details of any Cautions, Reprimands or Final Warnings. If a position involves working with children, the CRB check will indicate whether information is held on three government lists of those who are banned from working with children or the vulnerable (List 99, POCA, POVA) Examples of Standard Check jobs- Driving Instructor, St John’s Ambulance Volunteer and Security Industry.

Enhanced– These checks are for posts that involve a far greater degree of contact with children or vulnerable adults and where the applicant is likely to have unsupervised access to them. In general, the type of work will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of such people. Examples include a Teacher, Scout or Guide leader. Enhanced checks are also issued for certain statutory purposes such as gaming and lottery licenses. This level involves an additional check to those carried out for the Standard CRB check – a check on local police records. Where local police records contain additional information that may be relevant to the post the applicant is being considered for, the Chief Officer of police may release information for inclusion in an Enhanced check. Exceptionally, and in a very small number of circumstances (typically to protect the integrity of current police investigations), additional information may be sent under separate cover to the Registered Body although not revealed to the applicant.

Enhanced + Barred Lists – these are the same as Enhanced checks but also search against those who have previously barred from working with children or adults.

This is the highest level of check available to anyone involved in regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of children or vulnerable adults.  It is also available in certain licensing purposes and judicial appointments.  Enhanced Disclosures contain the same information as the Standard Disclosure but with the addition of any relevant and proportionate information held by the local police forces.

A copy of the Standard or Enhanced Disclosure will be sent out to the applicant rather than the prospective employer. This enables an applicant to challenge the inclusion of certain matters before these are revealed to anyone else.


The current legislation does not allow the self-employed or individuals to apply for an Enhanced check on themselves. In addition, parents who employ a nanny/au pair/babysitter directly cannot apply for a check; however, if an agency supplies the nanny/au pair/babysitter, the agency is entitled to carry out a check.

If you are going to work as a paid employee or as a volunteer for an organisation and your work will bring you into contact with children or vulnerable adults, you may have to be be DBS-checked.  For example, if you are to work as a teacher, care worker, scout & guide leader, registered childminder, sports coach, youth club worker, foster carer or foster/adoptive parent.

Why does this matter to you?

Imagine this; you have just applied for a job. Years of study and training are about to pay off in the form of a job you have longed for; all you need do now is complete the paperwork. One of the forms requires you to agree to a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The prospective employer sends your details to DBS who check your details against various databases including the Police National Computer PNC and the internal records of your local force.

As mentioned already, the PNC contains a record of your previous convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings – in addition, the records held by your local force will include Non Sanction Detections, Formal Cannabis Warnings, Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs), and local intelligence.

The result from DBS comes back and discloses to the Local Education Authority that you have a Non Sanction Detection for Rape recorded against you. You receive a copy of the official certificate. Understandably, you do not get the job! However, you have no knowledge of anything remotely relating to being accused of Rape….it is the type of thing that would stick in the minds of most people!!!

You can of course challenge the accuracy of the DBS check and police record. In all probability it will be reviewed and if the Non Sanction Detection is found to be unsustainable the record should be corrected. However, the job has gone, and you could be forgiven for thinking ‘mud sticks’ and irrespective of the fact that the record no longer shows you to be a rapist….is it likely that they will offer you a job in the future?? …….quite possibly not!

You may think that above case is a bit far-fetched – am I really expecting you to believe that a police force detected such a serious and despicable crime of Rape against a person without even informing them of the allegation, let alone interviewing them, or taking a statement from the victim, or any witnesses? I can assure you it is not far-fetched at all. It is based on an actual case.

 The following example is much more common; you are involved in a scuffle outside of a pub, nobody is badly injured – you just have cuts and bruises to your knees as you fell to the ground. You had been walking along the road when some chap barged into you for no apparent reason other than you are on that part of the pavement he wants to walk on. He stinks of beer and he looks as if he has already come off second-best in a previous fight as he has a bloody nose. He pushed you in the chest and you fell over, police are called. Passers-by keep you apart until police arrive whereupon once they do arrive on scene he alleges you punched him in the face first! You deny this but nevertheless you and the other chap were arrested on suspicion of assault and taken to the police station.

After a few hours you are spoken to in the cell and advised that the other chap isn’t sure whether or not to press charges, however, if he did, you will both be charged and appear at court charged with assault. That sounds serious! You have never been arrested before – in fact the last time you spoke to a Police Officer was when your school was visited by the local community bobby in relation to road safety. You have always had a deep respect for the police ands trust them implicitly.

The officer casually stated that there is another way of sorting this out if you are interested…….Interested??????? He now has your complete and undivided attention! All you want is for this to ‘go away’ and wake up from this nightmare. He advised you that all you need to do is to sign a form accepting a Caution for what occurred – as far as you are concerned you maintain that he barged into you, you did nothing to him at all, and this was an unprovoked attack by him. You are assured that by signing the form you are avoiding an unnecessary appearance at court and risking a criminal conviction. You readily agree asking where he wants you to sign. The form is put in front of you and you gleefully sign your name as requested. You now have an official Caution for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) that can and will be disclosed under a DBS check!!

One more example – you have been out drinking after work at the local pub. You have had 2 pints of lager, are clearly not drunk, but decide to get a taxi home as the last bus has just disappeared into the distance. The taxi queue is long and the weather is cold, it’s a dark windy night and the street is still quite busy with people making their way home. You now wish you had gone to the toilet before leaving the pub but you didn’t and the pub has closed its doors. Given that there are no public toilets open, and having been brought up correctly you do not want to offend anyone, you have 3 options, (1) Pee yourself, (2) Pee in a shop doorway, or (3) Go down a nearby alley and pee somewhere quiet and out of the way. A grown man peeing himself is not really an option and these designer jeans cost a fortune! Your brother works in a shop and you have too much consideration to expect shop assistants to have to clean up your urine. Option 3 appears to be the only reasonable course of action in the circumstances – so you nip down the alley – check that nobody is watching and pee against a wall. As you are in mid-flow you are illuminated by a blinding light! You are relieved to find out you are not being abducted by aliens – but rather it is 2 Police Officers on patrol. They tell you to stop (not always immediately possible) and follow them out of the alley onto the street. One of the officers then proceeds to write out a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND). The offence you have allegedly committed is contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – however, as will see – all may not be that it appears.

What can be disclosed as a result of a CRB/DBS check?

Part V Police Act 1997 allows police to disclose ‘any information that might be relevant’. Clearly, whoever crafted the legislation intended that any information, from a variety of sources could be disclosed if considered relevant. This is obviously a subjective judgement as this may vary from force to force. This gives a huge amount of latitude and flexibility to those making the decisions.

Criminal convictions will nearly always be disclosed. In these cases there is very little doubt (other than on those occasions when you and someone with the same name and date of birth are confused) as to the fact that what was alleged to have happened actually happened and that the offence for which you are convicted fits the offence that is eventually disclosed. This is not always the case with other types of information that is disclosed, e.g. the Sec. 5 Public Order Act Offence mentioned before. This ‘Public Order Act’ offence could give the impression to a prospective employer that the applicant is some stroppy, violent individual who goes looking for a fight once he has had a drink. Clearly this is a long way from being the chap who decided to nip down the alley for a pee to avoid anyone seeing him! In any event, the general rule is that Police Officers cannot be ‘harassed alarmed or distressed’ in the same way as members of the public can be so the Sec 5 Public Order offence might not be made out.

Effect of detections being disclosed

Given the competition for jobs in certain occupations anyone who has a less than perfect record stands a very strong chance of being disadvantaged from the outset. Whilst this might appear rather harsh – put yourself in the place of the person who has to make that decision. Would you (a) Give preference to an applicant who has no police record whatsoever, (b) Take a big risk that the person with the police record has since learned the error of their ways and is now a reformed character, or (c) Take an even bigger risk by believing the applicant who insists that;

  • He denies the Rape NSD. He insists he was never spoken to by the Police, and knew nothing about it until it came up as a result of the DBS check,
  • He was actually the victim of an unprovoked attack, and was talked into signing a form just to get out of the police station without anyone explaining to him the implications of an official Caution.
  • Irrespective of the fact that he has now been held responsible for a Sec. 5 Public Order Act offence (the same offence as you would be convicted for fighting in the street) all he actually did was nip down an alley to pee out of sight rather than offend anyone.

To most prospective employers this is a ‘no-brainer’. Why take a risk when you don’t have to? Simply trust the fact that the police records are correct, police must have acted correctly, and employ the applicant with a completely clean record.

 The Criminal Records Bureau has paid out in excess of £750,000 in ‘redress’ over the last 7 years – about 17 a week! DBS does not pay ‘compensation’ as this may indicate an admission of guilt – but instead makes ex-gratia payments. I wonder what the damages would amount to if they had taken out a civil action instead?

Hmmmmmm – make your own mind up!!!

















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