Is a Caution a Criminal Conviction?

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Is a Caution a Criminal Conviction?

If you have been offered or have received a caution, you may be wondering what the precise consequences of accepting a police caution (a simple police caution) are.

Is a Caution a Criminal Conviction?

A frequently asked question is whether a police caution is a criminal conviction. The short answer is no, a caution is not a criminal conviction. A caution although not considered to be a criminal conviction, it does however carry significant consequences – particularly if you hope to work in a trusted/regulated profession.

What are the Consequences of Accepting a Police Caution?

If you accept a simple police caution is will be “spent” immediately (a conditional caution is spent after 3 months) – a simple police  caution will not be disclosed on a basic background check (undertaken by Disclosure Scotland).

If however you work in a regulated sector, then the caution will have longer-term impacts. Also if you hope to live or work abroad the caution may cause you some difficulties.

The Police Caution and the PNC

When you are given a police caution,  or even if you are simply arrested with no further action being taken (NFA), the police will create a Police National Computer (PNC) record for you. A PNC record will record your details, amongst other things your name, aliases, date of birth, address, date of arrest, offence and the outcome of your case.

If the police are asked to undertake a check on you, they will first check the PNC against your details. If you hope to work or live abroad you will need a “police certificate” which checks against the PNC.

A police caution will be stepped down from a police certificate after certain periods of time have elapsed, more serious offences will be stepped down off a certificate only after a longer period of time.

Even though a police caution may not be disclosed on a police certificate after the relevant step down period has elapsed, the certificate will usually state “no live trace” as opposed to “no trace” if you had never been arrested/cautioned/convicted. This will give an indication to a foreign nation that you have previously been arrested/cautioned/convicted for something, and if their domestic policies require full disclosure, they may then ask you in for an interview and/or ask you to obtain your full police file so they can review your case.

There is a good argument to say that the no live trace policy on police certificates creates an anomaly when compared to domestic disclosure rules, namely the disclosure rules in respect of disclosing criminal records to a foreign nations affords less protection to UK citizens than they do on the domestic level to employers and regulatory bodies.

Police Cautions and Enhanced and Standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Certificates

Although a simple police caution will not show up on a basic check, a caution will show up on both a standard and an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.

Certain cautions will become protected after  6 years and will definitely come off of a standard certificate and mostly likely will not appear on an enhanced check. Offences such as common assault, low level theft or public order will be protected after 6 years.

Certain police cautions however will never become protected, cautions for what are considered to be more serious offences, such as burglary, actual bodily harm (ABH), child cruelty or sexual assault, will never become protected and will always be disclosed on both a standard or enhanced DBS certificate. (NB 2017: this rule is subject to a government review)

Arrest Records and Protected Cautions on Enhanced Background Checks

The police have a discretion to disclose a wide range of information on an enhanced DBS check – if the police feel it is relevant to a role you are applying for they may disclose arrest records or information related to a police caution.

Police cautions may therefore have an impact on your career even after 6 years and even if the caution you received was relatively minor. Even arrest records can be disclosed on an Enhanced DBS certificate – namely allegations that never resulted in a charge, caution nor conviction.

Police Cautions Removal Solicitors and DBS Specialists

We are specialist police caution removal (expungement) solicitors and we have significant experience in challenging unlawful police cautions and having them removed (expunged) from the PNC.

We also have extensive experience of challenging the unfair disclosure of information on enhanced DBS certificates.

In additional we are often instructed to apply to remove arrest records from the PNC, it may be the case that your arrest was unlawful and so your record on the PNC should be deleted.

If you are worried about immigration to the US, we have professional contacts with United States based attorneys with extensive experience in US immigration law and procedure.

Please get in touch to discuss your case with our specialist police caution and arrest record solicitors, we often are able to offer our services under fixed fees. We regret that we can not offer our services under legal aid.







About the Author:

I am a qualified solicitor and I have extensive experience of applying for the removal of police cautions from the PNC, challenging DBS certificates and DBS barring decisions. I have had numerous successful cases, and for cases where judicial review proceedings have been issued, I am usually able to recoup my clients’ costs from the police. I have co-authored a journal paper on the reform of the police cautioning procedure in the Criminal Law Review (the leading criminal law journal : “Suggestions for Reform to the Simple Cautioning procedure”). I also write the UK Westlaw Insight on Police Cautions and published an article in the Criminal Law and Justice Weekly on anonymity in criminal proceedings and its impact on the police caution: Adult Defendant Anonymity in Criminal Proceedings