What is the Disclosure Barring Service?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) replaced the Criminal Records Bureau in 2012 and is responsible for helping employers ‘make safer recruitment decisions’ by issuing DBS checks. Before 2012, these checks were known as ‘CRB’ checks.

The DBS issues certificates based on the level of check requested – basic, standard, enhanced, and enhanced with barred list(s). In the case of enhanced checks, the DBS must ask any relevant chief police officer to provide any information which that officer reasonably believes to be relevant for the purpose of the check, and which, in the officer’s opinion, ought to be included in the certificate.[1] This gives chief officers a wide discretion as to what is included in an enhanced certificate, and can be anything that the chief officer considers to be relevant to the role for which the applicant is applying. In effect, this means that certificates often include information about arrests that did not result in you being charged, or charges and/or remands into custody pending trial, even where you were subsequently acquitted.

Have you received a letter from the Disclosure Service after a recent DBS check?

If you have recently applied for a DBS check, in certain circumstances you may receive a letter from the police inviting you to make representations about the information held on your record which they are considering disclosing.

What are representations?

Representations are your opportunity to explain why the information held is not relevant, therefore disclosure would be inappropriate and disproportionate. Alternatively, the information held may be incorrect. If this is the case, your representations should highlight the errors and request the wording is amended to reflect the sequence of events that occurred.  It is crucial you take this chance to advance your arguments. Your representations may include the following:

  1. An explanation of the offence;
  2. Any mitigating factors;
  3. Defence to the offence;
  4. Professional and character witnesses;
  5. Explanation of why the information is not relevant to the particular job role;
  6. Why you no longer pose a risk
  7. Details of your current circumstance; and
  8. Any relevant supporting documentation (i.e., professional/character witnesses, medical reports etc)

What is the timeframe for making representations?

The time frame for making representations varies. Generally, individuals are given a few weeks from the date they are notified to make representations. In certain circumstances an extension of time can be granted. If you require an extension, consent must be sought from the relevant Disclosure Service.

What happens if I fail to make representations?

You should respond to the Disclosure Service whether you choose to make representations or not. Even though there is no obligation to respond, it is advisable to not take this approach. If you fail to respond a decision will be made without your input on whether the information held should be disclosed to an employer.

What should I do if I receive a letter from the Disclosure Team?

If you receive a letter from a Police Force Disclosure Team remain calm and read through the contents of the letter. It is important to acknowledge the letter; caution should be taken when drafting your response. Therefore, it is advisable to instruct a lawyer to draft your representations; this will circumvent possible errors and inconsistencies. A lawyer can advance legal arguments which will increase the chances of success.

If you think that information should not be disclosed in your enhanced DBS certificate, and you would like to challenge the decision to include it, contact us on 0207 632 4300.


[1] Section 113B(4), Police Act 1997 (as amended)


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