If you have come into contact with the police, you may be wondering whether you received a police caution.

A police caution is a formal police disposal that is recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC). Adult simple cautions and conditional cautions will be revealed on Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) certificates.

Police Cautions will be disclosed for 6 years, unless it is for a more serious offence, in which case it will be revealed forever.

Even after 6 years police cautions issued for less serious offences can still be disclosed on an enhanced DBS check as “relevant information”, depending on the circumstances. Any caution (whether adult or youth) will be retained on the PNC until the person is 100 years of age, unless it is deleted.

All cautions, including youth cautions, can also cause issues when it comes to immigration checks via an ACRO Police Certificate.

How do you know if you have a police caution?

So how do you know if you have received a police caution?

Usually this would be fairly obvious. The police would have clearly explained this to you, and got you to sign a caution warning form.

Prior to receiving a caution most suspects are interviewed at a police station in a formally recorded environment. A lawyer would be offered to you, and it would be quiet apparent that an official process was being conducted. So it is not simply a matter of the police saying that they have cautioned you, an official police caution follows a formal process that is clear and distinct.

It is however possible for a police caution to be issued outside of a police station, but you would still need to be offered all your formal legal guarantees, and you would need to admit the allegation. Your admission needs to be recorded somewhere, usually in an officer’s notebook. It is quite uncommon for a police caution to be issued outside of a police station, and most police officers will formally interview a suspect before issuing a police caution.

Sometimes police officers do break or bend or break the rules, and issue police cautions in informal settings, but this is quite rare.

Is a police caution the same as being cautioned?

This is where some confusion can come in.

“The” police caution is the warning he police will give you when they suspect you of being involved in a crime. The police caution is not the same as “a” police caution, which is a formal police disposal that is recorded on the PNC.

The police caution can be given to you when you are not under arrest, and the police may take no action after cautioning you. The words of the police caution are as follows:

You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence

Sometimes people might confuse being read this caution, with actually receiving a  formal police caution.

If the police simply cautioned you using these words, and nothing further happened to you after the police spoke with you, then you will not have a record on the PNC.

The police can also sometimes give informal warnings, which effectively amount to a verbal ticking off. The officers may take a note of your name, which can be stored on their local records, but it will not create a record on the PNC.

Local Police Records

Along with formal records that are recorded in the PNC, such as cautions, convictions, and arrest records, the police do also keep local records of allegations that have been made, and their investigations.

These records can be held “locally” by the police force concerned, and also may be added onto the PND as “intelligence” information.

This “soft intelligence” can sometimes cause issues for people when applying for enhanced DBS certificates. The police have broad powers to disclose information on enhanced DBS checks as “relevant” information.

Even where someone has been found not guilty in court, the allegation can still be disclosed. Where people are simply questioned about an allegation, but no further action (NFA) has been taken, these details can also be disclosed on an enhanced DBS check as relevant information.

The disclosure of relevant information can be appealed, and not all police enquiries will be disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate. The police will need to justify the disclosure as being relevant to the job being applied for. They don’t need to prove that the allegation is true, just that there is some evidence of an allegation/misconduct. They will then need to show that the disclosure is reasonable, necessary and proportionate.

How do you know if you have a police record?

If you are still unsure if you have a police caution or not, you can run a check against the PNC. You can apply to the police for this, and they will provide you with a copy of your PNC print out. If you have no record on the PNC the police will tell you that you are “no trace” on the PNC.

Also you can apply for any local records held by the police. You can apply to the police under the Data Protection Act, as a data subject, to have access to any records they hold locally. Some of these records may be redacted to remove third party information, but you should get, at the very least, a general idea of what local records the police are holding about you.

If you don’t want to run these checks yourself, we can apply to the police for your records on your behalf. Alternately if you have run the checks and are unsure what they mean, or would like the data expunged (deleted), then we can help.

We have successfully applied for the deletion of hundreds of police records including arrest records, police cautions, community resolutions, PNDs, and locally held information.

If local record information, or PNC records, have been disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate, we can also assist you with making representations to the DBS or the Police Chief Constable.

Please get in touch to arrange a consultation regarding any police records enquiry you may have.