In the past you may have been accused of a criminal offence. As part of this process you may have been arrested, detained, fingerprinted, had DNA samples taken and been booked into a police station.
After the police carried out all their enquiries into the allegation they may have decided to drop the case and you would have been told the police were taking “no further action”.
In these circumstances you might fairly assume that the matter was closed and it would have no further bearing on your future. Generally this is true – however the fact of your arrest and the reasons behind it will have been recorded on the police national computer. Therefore you will not have any formal “criminal record” but the details of the allegation will be recorded against your name.
Some minor allegations may be filtered off the system after 6 years but if the allegation is serious then it is unlikely to be deleted so soon.
The reason the police retain non-conviction information is for potential disclosure when applying for future employment or positions of responsibility. The logic behind this is that, perhaps an allegation has been made, maybe of a very serious nature, but there is insufficient evidence to proceed with the case. The authorities believe that in discharging their duty to protect the public, notably the vulnerable and children, in certain circumstances this non-conviction information can be disclosed to future prospective employers or other official bodies. In making a disclosure the police must assess whether the information to be disclosed is reliable and relevant and whether in light of the public interest and the likely impact on the applicant, whether it is proportionate to disclose the information. Factors to be considered in assessing proportionality include: the gravity of the information; its reliability and relevance; the applicant’s opportunity to rebut the information; the period that has elapsed since the relevant events; and the adverse effect of the disclosure.
This policy in itself is logical and its aims are difficult to challenge, however of course, as with any broad system, there is a potential for serious injustice to be caused by its implementation. Those that have been the victims of a genuine false allegation may not only suffer the trauma of the initial investigation but may have to experience the false allegation repeated every time they hope to apply for any position that involves any sort of responsibility or trust. Similarly those that have been convicted or cautioned for an offence, but have reformed, may find the disclosure rules make it in practice difficult to move on.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and police however are alive to the potential for an unfair disclosure of information and the police and DBS have a procedure in place to dispute information which is disclosed. It is possible for you to apply to appeal the disclosure of information yourself or you could seek the assistance of an expert criminal defence solicitor who can guide you on how to make the best application possible.
If after going through the appeals process the police and DBS refuse to remove the information on the disclosure certificate it is possible to proceed to judicial review to challenge the basis upon which the information is disclosed. Again you can apply for judicial review yourself but, as with most complex court proceedings, it usually advisable to employ the services of an experienced criminal defence solicitor.
If you are shocked to see that the police have recorded information about you which is totally untrue, it may be the case that they have incorrectly registered details against your name. If this has happened you can use the DBS appeals process to set the record straight.