How long does a police caution last in UK?

A formal warning used by the police to deal with criminal offending is called a caution. A caution is given to a person who committed and admitted the offence. Use of a caution avoids the need to charge a person and initiate a prosecution, which is the route to a conviction. 

If in case a person refuses the caution, they will normally be prosecuted for the offence. Although it is not technically classed as a conviction, it can be taken into consideration by the Courts.

Cautions are covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and become spent immediately⁠—not taking into account conditional cautions that will become spent after 3 months.

A person who spent cautions is not obliged to disclose them to prospective employes unless he or she is applying for particular types of work. Employers in return cannot refuse employment to a person who spent convictions.

How long does a police caution stay on a person’s record?

The answer depends on who is asking. The answer will vary on the level of disclosure that can be lawfully requested by the questioning organisation.

Specifically, on a basic disclosure issued by Scotland, a caution for both the youth and an adult is spent immediately and will not reflect. Whereas a conditional caution will be spent once the conditions end or after 3 months (depending on which is sooner).

On the other hand, a caution will reflect for longer periods of time on standard and enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificates. In some instances, it may be disclosed forever. A caution may also have an impact on a police certificate⁠—issued generally for immigration purposes.

Criminal Convictions

If the applicant was 18+ years old at the time of the offence

If the person applying for a DBS disclosure was over 18 years of age during the time that the criminal offence was committed, he or she will be regarded as an adult.

The offence will then be filtered from the records only if:

  • 11+ years have passed since his or her conviction;
  • he or she did not go to prison;
  • he or she did not commit a crime since then; and
  • the committed offence does not appear on the list in relation to safeguarding.

If the applicant was under 18 years old at the time of the offence

If the person applying for the check was below 18 years of age during the time that the criminal offence was committed, he or she should be categorised as a minor (even when he or she is 18+ years old during the application).

The offence will be filtered only if:

  • 5.5+ years have passed since his or her conviction;
  • he or she did not go to prison;
  • he or she did not commit a crime since then; and
  • The committed offence does not appear on the list in relation to safeguarding.

Cautions

If the applicant was 18+ years old at the time of caution

Cautions, generally, are slightly less serious as compared to a conviction. This means it takes a little less time for cautions to be wiped off from a person’s records.

Cautions will be filtered from a DBS report on the following grounds:

  • 6 years+ have passed since the caution was imposed; and
  • The committed offence does not appear on the list relation to safeguarding.

Records not applicable for clearing

If there are crimes or offences subject for clearing, there will also be crimes or offences that will appear when a DBS check is in place. Such crimes include those that are related in a safeguarding context:

  • serious sexual;
  • violent crimes; and
  • offences committed abroad (e.g. child abduction and terrorism among others).

If you are unsure about your rights when it comes to criminal conviction or arrest in the UK, contact Sanders Witherspoon solicitors.

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