The answer to this question depends on who is asking the question. The answer will be different depending on the level of disclosure that can be lawfully requested by the organisation who is asking the question. On a basic disclosure (issued by disclosure Scotland) a caution (youth and adult) is spent immediately and will not show up. A conditional caution (youth and adult) will be spent once the conditions end or after 3 months, whichever is sooner. A caution however will show up for longer periods of time on Standard and Enhanced DBS certificates and in some cases may be disclosed forever. A caution will also have an impact on a police certificate, which are issued for the purposes of immigration.
On a Standard DBS certificate a police caution will show up for at least 6 years, a youth caution will show up for only 2 years.
If however your caution was for a proscribed offence it will show up indefinitely on a standard (and enhanced) Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate (NB 2017: this rule is subject to a government review). Most offences that appear on the proscribed list you would be unlikely to receive a caution for, offences include murder, terrorism and rape. However there are a certain number of offences that are on the proscribed list that can easily apply to facts that are relatively minor, offences such as Actual Bodily Harm (ABH), child cruelty or burglary. Whilst these offences can at times relate to more serious factual incidents, sometimes cautions can be issues for these offences where the facts are relatively minor. Examples might be causing a minor cut or bruise to someone during a domestic fight, leaving your child unattended for a short period of time or a burglary allegation when a youth and of a low value and type, for example entering an abandoned home and taking something of low value.
On an enhanced DBS certificate, a police caution will definitely show up for 6 years (2 years for youth cautions) after which it will be protected and will most likely be filtered off of a DBS certificate. If however your caution is for an offence on the proscribed list of offences that never become filtered, then your caution will never become protected and it will always appear on your DBS certificate. N.B. 2019 edit, Disclosure with respect to youth reprimands/warnings/cautions are subject to revision by the government.
Even if your caution is not for a proscribed list offence and so will be eligible for filtering, the police retain a broad discretion in terms of the information they can disclose on an enhanced DBS certificate. So even of your caution was for a minor common assault, or a minor theft, the police, if they feel the caution reveals facts that are relevant to your job application, then they may disclose relevant facts on your certificate. If information related to your caution is disclosed after the 6 year period, as long as it is not for a proscribed list caution, you may appeal the disclosure of this information.
Along with showing up on DBS checks, a caution will also show up on police certificate issued by ACRO Criminal Records Office.
The Criminal Records Office issues certificates that are used by UK citizens looking to emigrate to foreign nations.
The Criminal Records Office adopt the “step down” model, as opposed to the filtering process used by the Disclosure and Barring Service. The step down process removes cautions from a certificate after certain periods of time. A serious caution will be removed after 10 years, a caution for a more minor offence will be removed after 5 years.
Even if a caution is stepped down, your certificate will still give an indication to a foreign nation that you have at least been arrested. For someone who has never been arrested, their police certificate will say “no trace”, however if you have been cautioned or convicted, your certificate will most likely say “no live trace”. This will then, at the very least, give the country you wish to immigrate to, an indication that you have had an issue with the law in the past.
We are specialist police caution removal solicitors and have extensive experience of challenging unlawfully issued police cautions.
We are often also instructed to challenge arrest records and have had numerous PNC records deleted for our clients.
In addition, if you feel information has been unfairly disclosed on your DBS certificate, then we will be able to help.
We also defend against DBS barring decisions (formerly list 99) and appeal DBS barring decisions that have already been made.