It is possible to obtain the background records of someone if the police believe they pose a risk  of domestic violence or abuse, or in relation to the safeguarding of children.

There are two schemes that the police operate to disclose information; these are the Child Sex Offender Disclosure scheme, and also the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

It should be noted that neither of these schemes relate to pre-employment checks, the DBS deals with pre-employment checks in England and Wales.

It is also possible to obtain criminal records via an ACRO PNC check, or via a local subject access check, but these records can only be obtained with the express authority of the individual concerned. It is a criminal offence to subject anyone to an “Enforced Subject Access” request under section 184 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

The police have common law powers to disclose information about a person’s known history of violence or abuse, normally relating to previous convictions or charges, to the public where there is a pressing need for disclosure of the information in order to prevent further crime.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme harnesses the police’s common law disclosure powers to protect members of the public who may be at risk from domestic violence and abuse. The Scheme is often referred to as “Clare’s Law” and was implemented across all 43 police forces in England and Wales in March 2014.

There are two ways in which disclosure can be undertaken by the police, the “Right to ask” and the “Right to know”.

Right to Ask

The Right to Ask, is triggered by a member of the public applying to the police for a disclosure.

Someone who was/is in an intimate relationship with someone whom they have concerns may be potentially violent and/or abusive has a right to ask. Also a third party can also ask if they are concerned for the welfare of a potential victim. A third party is someone who has some form of contact with the partner of a potentially violent/abusive individual. This could include any third party such as a parent, neighbour or friend of the potential victim.

Once a request is made to the police, there is a strict policy that is followed before a disclosure  is made, balancing the right’s of a potential victim, along with the data protection/privacy rights of the potential abuser.

Right to Know

The Right to Know is triggered by the police making a proactive decision to disclose information to protect a potential victim.

Where a safeguarding agency comes into the possession of information about the previous violent and abusive behaviour of someone that may cause harm to a partner who is/was in an intimate relation with that potentially violent person,  a decision will be made as to whether a disclosure of information should be made.

Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme

The child sex offender disclosure scheme was developed in 2008 and is now available across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

The scheme does not implement a US style practice of publicising the details of known sex offenders, but is a disclosure process undertaken on a case-by-case basis.

The principal aim of this scheme is to provide parents, guardians and carers with information that will enable them to better safeguard their children. Under the  Scheme anyone can make an application about a person who has some form of contact with a child or children. This could include any third party such as a grandparent, neighbour or friend, but disclosure via the scheme will be made to the parent, carer or guardian.

If an individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children and there is reasonable cause to believe that the individual poses a risk of causing serious harm to the child or children concerned, the police may disclose this information to the person best placed to protect the child or children.

In some cases the individual may not be known to the police for child sexual offences but may be known for other offences that might put a child’s safety at risk – such as serious violent offending. Also information may be disclosed about people who are un-convicted but where there is intelligence indicating that they pose a risk of harm to children.

Both the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme overlap and are complemented by Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).