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Criminal record disclosure & barring disputes

The Disclosure and Barring Service came into existence in 2012 and replaced two separate organisations:

  • the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)
  • and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

It deals with

  • disclosure of information in criminal record checks (disclosure functions)
  • determining whether individuals should be added to, maintained or removed from the barred lists (barring functions)

Our solicitors are able to help should you have a disclosure or barring service dispute. Call us on 01616 966 229  to speak with a legal advisor or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in touch with you shortly.

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Our experience

Below are examples of how we have helped clients following requests for advice and assistance:

Stephensons acted in the leading case of T v Chief Constable Greater Manchester which lead to changes on the law on criminal record disclosure.

Mike Pemberton has recently acted on behalf of a client who received a caution for possession with intent to supply a number of years ago. This caution would not be filtered due to its nature, but Mike successfully applied to the NPCC for a record deletion on the basis that its continued disclosure breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights. After considering the representations the police force agreed to delete the information, meaning that the caution would no longer be disclosed on an enhanced or standard criminal record certificate. This provided the client with reassurance that future efforts at career progression would not be hampered by a single incident which took place when they were younger and lead a different lifestyle.

Mike Pemberton  recently acted on behalf of a client who received a minded to bar letter from the DBS following acceptance of a caution for neglect in a role in a care home. Representations were provided which set out the circumstances in the home at the time of the alleged incident and reflected on the additional training which had been undertaken since that time. The fact the client had been indirectly involved in the alleged neglect was also highlighted. The representations were considered by the DBS and a decision was made not to bar the client from working with vulnerable adults in the circumstances of the case.

Mike also acted for A in the filtering appeals cases which are currently being pursued through the courts.

Disclosure issues

For many, a criminal allegation is a very stressful time and an outcome where there is no charge made or the case is not proceeded with at court can provide great relief. An acquittal can be an even greater relief following the ordeal of a trial before magistrates or a jury at the Crown Court. In some roles, however this may not be the end of difficulties. When you apply for certain jobs or certain roles, a ‘criminal record certificate’ may be requested.

There are different levels of criminal record certificate including:

  • A basic criminal record certificate.
  • A standard criminal record certificate
  • An enhanced criminal record certificate (with or without barring information)

A basic criminal record certificate will show any unspent convictions. A standard criminal record certificate will show both spent and unspent convictions but is subject to filtering provisions which will weed out offences after a period of time unless:

  • They appear on a list of offences which will never be filtered
  • There is more than one conviction
  • or a period of imprisonment has been imposed for an offence.

An enhanced certificate will provide details of both spent and unspent convictions as above and additional information that the police feel is relevant to the position that you are applying for. This may include information on an acquittal or an allegation that has been made or concerns about incidents involving you (which may have arisen during contact with agencies such as social services, mental health services or other public bodies). An enhanced certificate may also contain information on whether you are subject to barring from working with children or vulnerable adults.

Enhanced Certificates affect people seeking employment or a voluntary position in a regulated activity in contact with vulnerable adults or children. An enhanced criminal record certificate could raise these issues and still prevent opportunities for employment or activity despite no conviction existing. Officially, it is a matter for individual employers to consider the information on a certificate and come to an informed decision but the court’s have accepted that an entry on a certificate can be a killer blow to any job application.

Our specialist disclosure and barring service dispute team aim to deal with matters following the conclusion of a criminal investigation and have been involved in a number of scenarios in which they have assisted individuals including:

  • Factual disputes on the proposed information being disclosed
  • Disputes about the necessity or relevance of information being disclosed
  • Disputes about the legality of disclosure of information

The team can assist at key points of the process including:

  • Advice on the likely consequences of criminal proceedings and conviction or caution
  • Advice on acquittal
  • Advice on filtering of convictions
  • Representations to the police against disclosure
  • Raising a dispute with the DBS
  • Representations to the independent monitor seeking a review of proposed disclosure
  • Judicial review of decisions to disclose information

The team have been involved in leading cases which have developed the law in this area including two cases at Supreme Court level and offer a bespoke service to clients depending upon their specific needs and means. For advice on disclosure disputes contact our specialists on 01616 966 229 or you can complete an online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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The Disclosure and Barring Service also deal with determinations on whether an individual undertaking a regulated activity with either vulnerable adults or children should be barred from doing that activity.

This breaks down into the following considerations:

A person needs to be undertaking a regulated activity with children and/or vulnerable adults now, in the past or be likely to do so in the future. This is known as the test for regulated activity and the term itself is defined in guidance provided by the DBS:

In very general terms, ‘regulated activity’ is concerned with activities which are seen as placing someone in a vulnerable position, for example through a relationship of trust or dependency. There are different definitions of regulated activity, depending on whether an activity involves children or adults.

The following activities involving children (under 18 years old) are regulated even if only performed once:

Relevant personal care:

  • helping a child with eating or drinking because of their illness or disability;
  • helping a child with toileting (including menstruation), washing, bathing or dressing because of their age, illness or disability;
  • prompting with supervision in relation to the above two examples, without which the child is unable to decide;
  • training or advice in relation to the above two examples.


  • only if provided by a healthcare professional or provided under the direction or supervision of a healthcare professional. This includes providing professional first aid e.g. St John’s ambulance officer
  • whether concerned with mental or physical health
  • including psychotherapy or counselling but not life coaching

Registered childminding:

  • this has to be subject to compulsory or voluntary registration under the Childcare Act 2006
  • the family/personal arrangement exception (explained above) may be relevant here


  • not care arranged by family members and not care without any reward
  • a local authority can still foster a child with a barred person who is, or lives with, a relative of the child

Day to day management/supervision on a regular basis of a person who provides regulated activity is also regulated activity (including management of those people who would be in regulated activity if not for the supervision exemption).

The following activities are regulated activities if performed by a person:

  • once a week, or more;
  • on four days in a 30 day period, or more; or
  • once overnight (any time between 2am and 6am with an opportunity for face to face contact with children):

Unsupervised teaching, training, instruction, care or supervision of children:

  • If the teaching, training, instruction, care or supervision of children is supervised to a “reasonable” day to day level, it is not classed as regulated activity. Statutory guidance on what this means with examples is available from the Department for Education (DfE) website here.

Advice/guidance provided wholly or mainly for children relating to their physical, emotional or educational well-being:

  • Not legal advice
  • If a person is providing advice or guidance to a colleague who is under 18 and the work is not regulated activity, this is not regulated activity (eg a supervisor at a department store who manages someone under 18)

The following activities are regulated activities if performed by a person:

  • once a week, or more; or
  • on four days in a 30 day period, or more:
    • Moderating a public electronic interactive communication service likely to be used wholly or mainly by children:
    • Driving a vehicle used only for children and their carers or supervisors

Or in respect of where the activity is done:

The places listed below will automatically make an activity regulated activity if it is carried out by the same person:

1. At one of the places

The places are:

  • schools: includes, for example, teachers, cleaners and caretakers.
  • academies
  • pupil referral units (short stay schools)
  • nursery schools
  • institutions for the detention of children
  • children’s homes​
  • chlidren’s centres (in England)
  • childcare premises

2 – Once a week or more, on four days in a 30 day period or more;
3 – In connection with the purposes of the place; and
4 – It gives the person the opportunity to have contact with children in performing the activity.

Any of the above places will also make day to day management/supervision of a volunteer activity (which would be regulated activity if unsupervised) regulated activity if carried out at that place.

However, an activity at one of the above places will not be regulated activity if:

  • performed by someone in a group assisting, acting on behalf of or under the direction of another person who is performing regulated activity
  • volunteering under day to day supervision of another person who is performing regulated activity (i.e. because of number 8, above)
  • performed by someone contracted/volunteering to provide occasional or temporary services (except for teaching, training or supervision of children)
  • performed at a childcare premises, which is the home of a parent/guardian of at least one child who is being cared for/minded
  • performed in a number of the above places, but only infrequently in each place

Activities which may involve children in places other than those listed above will not automatically qualify as regulated activity.

Regulated activities involving vulnerable adults

There are six specific categories of activity to consider with adults. An adult is now classed as vulnerable only when they are receiving any of the following regulated activities. An activity will also be regulated if it involves the day to day management/supervision of a person performing an activity within any of the six categories below:

Healthcare provided by a healthcare professional

  • a person who provides healthcare under the direction/supervision of a healthcare professional will also be performing a Regulated activity (with an exception of peer support groups, see below)
  • a healthcare professional is someone regulated by one of the following:
    • General Medical Council
    • General Dental Council
    • General Optical Council
    • General Osteopathic Council
    • General Chiropractic Council
    • General Pharmaceutical Council
    • Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
    • Nursing and Midwifery Council
    • Health and Care Professions Council
  • Healthcare can relate to physical or mental health and includes palliative care. Examples provided by the Home Office include taking blood from a donor, providing psychotherapy or counselling (including over the phone) and first aid if performed on behalf of an organisation whose purpose is to provide first aid (e.g. St John’s Ambulance),
  • Healthcare does not include, for example, life-coaching, being a shop’s designated first aider, being a member of a peer support group such as Alcoholics’ Anonymous; even if supervised by a health care professional, or being a receptionist in a GP surgery or dental practice.

Relevant personal care:

  • Anyone who provides an adult with physical assistance with eating or drinking, going to the toilet, washing or bathing, dressing, oral care or care of the skin, hair or nails because of the adult’s age, illness or disability, is providing regulated activity. However, a person who provides physical assistance only by cutting a person’s hair will not be performing a regulated activity.
  • Anyone who prompts and then supervises an adult who, because of their age, illness or disability, cannot make the decision to eat or drink, go to the toilet, wash or bathe, get dressed or care for their mouth, skin, hair or nails without that prompting and supervision, is providing regulated activity.
  • Anyone who trains, instructs or provides advice or guidance which relates to eating or drinking, going to the toilet, washing or bathing, dressing, oral care or care of the skin, hair or nails to adults who need it because of their age, illness or disability, is providing regulated activity.
  • Providing personal care does not include, for example, a beauty therapist who visits a day care centre and provides manicures for people who would like one rather than who need one due to age, illness or disability, a volunteer who prepares and serves a meal but who does not feed/prompt/supervise/train/instruct someone to eat and a person who provides IT skills to a class of adults with learning difficulties.

Social work:

  • A person providing social work in relation to adults who are clients, or potential clients, who are assessing or reviewing the person’s need for health, education or social services and is providing ongoing support is engaged in regulated activity.

Assistance with household matters:

  • This will only be regulated activity if provided because of a person’s age, illness or disability and involves managing that person’s cash, paying that person’s bills or shopping on their behalf.
  • This would include collecting money and shopping for someone, but would not include only helping a person to write a shopping list.
  • The general exception for family and personal, non-commercial arrangements may be relevant here, explained above.

Assistance in the conduct of an adults own affairs:

  • If a person provides assistance in the conduct of an adults own affairs, for example, being appointed as an independent mental health advocate, having lasting power of attorney under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 or receives payments on behalf of that person under the Social Security Administration Act 1992, is engaging in regulated activity.

Transporting / conveying

  • Any driver/assistant who transports an adult because of their age, illness or disability to or from places where they have received, or will be receiving, health care, personal care or social work, are in regulated activity.
  • This includes hospital porters, patient transport service providers and assistants and ambulance technicians.
  • There is an exception for licensed taxi drivers regardless of the purpose or destination of the journey undertaken. or licensed private hire drivers.
  • An arrangement such as taking a friend to a hospital appointment would also not be within regulated activity, as part of the general exception regarding personal relationships.

The DBS may receive a referral to consider barring an individual from working with vulnerable adults and/or children in one of the following ways:

  • Autobar referral – this arises from a notification of a conviction or caution for specified ‘relevant offences’ which can then result in either:
    • automatic barring without representations - meaning that the individual will be barred from regulated activity or
    • automatic barring with representations – which provides the individual an opportunity of making representations that the DBS will consider before making a final determination of whether the person should be added to the barred list.
  • Consideration of whether to bar following disclosure of information on a criminal record certificate. This would follow an application for a certificate (required when working with children or vulnerable adults) that reveals a conviction, caution or other information which raises concern.
  • A referral from an employer, regulatory body or other organisation where there is a legal duty do so e.g. following dismissal from employment or disciplinary proceedings where there is harm or potential harm to a child or adult. This can include cases where somebody resigns from a post or activity before a safeguarding investigation is concluded. 

The objective of a barring consideration it to prevent unsuitable people working or having unsupervised contact with the vulnerable group. Following a referral, the DBS will write to the person concerned to inform them of the inquiry. There is no need to respond to an initial notification because the DBS will then advise whether they are considering barring or taking no further action. However, there may be circumstances when it is prudent to make an initial response and provide information to assist the DBS in their inquiry.

If the DBS determine that the threshold may be met for barring then they will advise you that they are minded to bar and ask you to make representations. This will involve consideration of whether you have been in fact, are or maybe in the future involved in ‘regulated activity’ and whether the alleged conduct gives rise to a risk of harm to children or vulnerable adults (as per the referral for consideration of whether to add you to the children or adult barred list).

The consequence of being added to the barred list means that you will not be able to undertake work or voluntary roles involving regulated activity with either children, vulnerable adults or both. Anybody attempting to do so commits a criminal offence as does any organisation or employer who appoints somebody who is barred.

There is normally a minimum period of barring so the outcome can have very serious consequences on employment or volunteering. This minimum period is based in your age when barred:

  • Under 18 years - 1 year
  • 18 to 24 years - 5 years
  • 25 years or over - 10 years

Our specialist team are able to offer advice on making representations against barring and have wide experience of a range of scenarios which have led to consideration being given to making an entry on the barring lists.

They have also represented clients in barring appeals to the upper tribunal and Court of Appeal.

For advice on barring disputes contact our specialists on 01616 966 229 or you can complete an online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

Barring reviews

It is possible to ask the DBS to review a barring status on three grounds:

  • Where the role does not meet the test for regulated activity following changes to the definition in September 2012
  • Where certain statutory conditions are met
    • New Information has become available which was not considered
    • A material change in circumstances has occurred
    • An error was made by the DBS
  • The minimum period has expired
    • 1 year if barred under 18
    • 5 years if barred between the ages of 18-24
    • 10 years if barred when aged over 25.

Careful consideration needs to be given the proposed grounds for a review and evidence may need to be obtained in specific cases (for example a psychological risk assessment).

Our disclosure and barring disputes team can advise on whether there may be grounds to seek a review and what evidence is required.

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