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February 1 2019

UK Criminal Checks

Important Process Change – Disclosure Scotland

Recent changes implemented by Disclosure Scotland could result in substantially increased turnaround times for any businesses that order their criminal record checks incorrectly.

As recently as 2017, applicants anywhere in the country could apply for a Basic criminal record check via Disclosure Scotland. This ended once the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) began offering a Basic check which was to be used for all checks in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Most companies adjusted their processes accordingly at the time. However, some confusion evidently still remains - which Disclosure Scotland are now trying to combat.

Therefore, to push employers to order the correct check, Disclosure Scotland will now request further documentation if the home address of an individual being checked is not in Scotland.

Please be aware that we will have to ask you to provide this documentation if we are asked to do so by Disclosure Scotland. This will likely increase turnaround times and add to your administrative burden so we strongly advise that you order the correct check.

Clearing up the confusion

As many employers will know, ordering the right criminal check can be a confusing undertaking – so we thought we’d take the opportunity to clear this all up.

There are three different levels of criminal records disclosure certificates in the UK – Basic, Standard and Enhanced.

The Basic check is generally available for any purpose and will reveal whether an individual holds any unspent convictions. Cautions and certain convictions become ‘spent’ after a specified period of time known as the rehabilitation period; the length of which is determined by several factors outlined in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Spent convictions will not be revealed on a Basic level check.

The Act contains a list of professions and activities within which individuals are eligible for a Standard check. These include people working with children or vulnerable adults as well as legal, financial and medical professionals. Unlike the Basic check, spent convictions will be revealed on a Standard check.

An Enhanced check goes further still, revealing any relevant information held by local police authorities on the individual in question. Employers also have the option of adding a barred list check here, if legally permitted; checking whether an individual appears on any list barring them from working with children or vulnerable adults. Eligibility for an Enhanced check depends on a role or activity being included in both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the various Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) regulations.

In Scotland, a further Protection of Vulnerable Groups check is mandatory for anyone working with children or protected adults. 

These checks are overseen by three different government agencies. DBS is responsible for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man; Disclosure Scotland is responsible for Scotland; while Access NI is responsible for Northern Ireland.

It’s important that any checks are ordered from the correct agency. When checks are requested for personal reasons (i.e. in support of anything unrelated to employment or volunteering), a person’s place of residence will determine which agency they should apply to. However, for checks ordered for employment purposes, the place of work is the location that determines the correct agency.

If an individual works in two UK jurisdictions, then the jurisdiction in which the recruitment decision was made (or will be made) should determine the check.

Choosing the correct agency and level of check is essential. The legislation is different across the three jurisdictions so ordering the check from the correct agency is necessary to ensure the right information is provided.

If you order the wrong check - and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act that applies in that jurisdiction does not apply to the position applied for – you could receive more information than you are legally entitled to. If that extra information results in someone being refused employment, the implications could extend as far as criminal proceedings being brought against you.

An alternative scenario here is that ordering the wrong check could result in you not receiving as much information as you are entitled to; something which could also have damaging implications for the integrity of your screening process.

For individuals working or volunteering in the United Kingdom, the checks process is conducted as follows:

Working or volunteering in:

Should have:

The process is:

England and Wales

Criminal record checks via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

Online, using Verifile’s portal.


Criminal record checks via Disclosure Scotland

Online, using Verifile’s portal, for Basic disclosure. Paper forms for all other checks.

Northern Ireland

Criminal record checks via AccessNI

Online, using AccessNI’s portal.



Please contact us for further information.


Isle of Man

Remembering that the choice of agency is determined by either the employer’s location or an individual’s place of residency, the process can become more complicated when a check is required (a) for someone working or volunteering outside the UK; or (b) for personal purposes by someone living outside the UK.

In such instances, applications can be made via any of the three national agencies, as above. However, our recommendation is to make such applications via Disclosure Scotland as this provides the most conviction information and is the simplest process to navigate.

Checks in Northern Ireland via AccessNI

For Enhanced checks and when a role includes regulated activity with children, AccessNI routinely requests information on foreign nationals from a number of EU Member States. Offered free of charge, this is part of their service to provide a more comprehensive picture of an individual’s criminal background; something that can prove useful when dealing with individuals who have so far spent little time within the UK.

As of December 3rd last year, AccessNI added Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia to its list of countries from which it will request criminal record information. However, they have also informed us that Poland and Romania remain suspended from their list, due to ongoing delays in obtaining information from these countries.

Securing a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s criminal records across multiple countries is a valuable undertaking. Verifile can do exactly that, for any role, across a large number of countries, both in Europe and further afield. Please do contact us for further information on this service.