All You Need to Know about DBS Checks and the PNC

Employers should have a strong understanding of the types of DBS check they are obliged to request during the recruitment process. They should also know the extent of disclosure that a BasicStandard, and Enhanced DBS check reveals.

If employers know what a DBS check shows, it will help them make more informed hiring decisions and conclude whether a candidate is fit for the role. As far as Standard DBS and Enhanced DBS checks are concerned, employers and candidates should both be aware of the Police National Computer.

What is the Police National Computer (PNC)?

The Police National Computer, or PNC, is a central information system that holds information about individuals who have committed offences. These include:

  • Convictions
  • Cautions
  • Warnings
  • Arrests
  • Reprimands

The PNC also stores information regarding imminent prosecutions as well as any formal arrests that resulted in no further action being taken.

For a Standard DBS check or Enhanced DBS check, the Disclosure and Barring Service would require access to the PNC to validate or confirm information regarding a specific DBS application. The PNC can also be accessed by the following organisations, although it’s not explicitly limited to these:

  • The House of Commons and the House of Lords
  • HM Revenue and Customs
  • Royal Mail
  • HM Prison Service
  • The Home Office

Difference between Police National Computer and Police National Database

The PNC is not the same as the Police National Database (PND), which houses ‘soft’ information relating to individuals. For example, if an individual was questioned about something that resulted in no conviction or caution. Information from the PND can both form part of the Enhanced DBS application process, but it’s often used on an as-needed basis.

Describing the DBS check process to prospective employees is much easier if you understand the importance of the PNC and the PND.

What is Held on the PNC?

The PNC stores information of individuals who are, or were at one point, of interest to their local police force. This is why the Disclosure and Barring Service validates information against the PNC for a DBS online application, to ensure that the applicant has divulged all relevant information.

It’s worth noting that the DBS cannot refuse a DBS check for an employee or potential volunteer. That jurisdiction lies with the hiring organisation. The only time there would be any severe intervention from the DBS would be if, for example, a candidate were to apply for an Enhanced DBS check with a relevant barred list check (either the children’s or vulnerable adults’ one), and that individual appeared on said barred list.

However, some information held on the PNC can still be of interest to a hiring organisation waiting on an Enhanced DBS application. The list below details some information that may prove helpful if individuals:

  • Have cautions or convictions related to criminal acts
  • Are presumed missing or wanted
  • Have escaped from a registered institution
  • Are being actively sought by the police for a crime
  • Receive specific court orders against them, or are waiting for a court appearance
  • Are awaiting legal action
  • Hold a firearm certificate
  • Have been disqualified from driving or a DVLA-recorded driving offence

Will a Police Caution Affect my DBS Check?

Simple cautions are records of allegations made against an individual, which they subsequently accept and admit. These are disclosed on Standard and Enhanced DBS checks and stay on an individual’s criminal record.

Police cautions are not the same as criminal convictions, but they will be retained on the PNC. Therefore, they will stay on a person’s criminal record permanently. Specific DBS disclosure rules apply to when cautions can be listed when someone applies for a DBS check, depending on the circumstances.

A police woman and a policeman wearing visibility jacket

Many adult cautions are eligible for DBS filtering after approximately six years, and will not automatically appear on a Standard or Enhanced DBS certificate. Cautions for certain ‘specified’ offences (i.e. ones which are more severe safeguarding offences) will always be disclosed on an Enhanced or Standard DBS.

The police themselves will always retain the discretion to include any caution or criminal activity on an applicant’s Enhanced DBS check, even if an offence has been filtered.

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