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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children Outside the United Kingdom Phase 2 Investigation Report

D.2: The legal framework

The Disclosure and Barring Service

7. The DBS is a non-departmental public body created in 2012. It operates disclosure functions for England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, and barring functions for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, pursuant to a complex statutory framework.[1]

8. The DBS issues a number of certificates.

  • Basic disclosure certificates: These are available for any position or purpose. They include details of convictions and conditional cautions which are considered to be unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
  • Standard disclosure certificates: These are available for those working in certain roles specified in legislation[2] as a ‘regulated activity’ (for example, those involving the teaching, training, care or supervision of children) and include unspent and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings.
  • Enhanced disclosure certificates: These certificates involve the highest level of check and are available for anyone working with vulnerable groups and in other positions involving a high degree of trust. They include the same information as standard certificates but also information that the local police force reasonably believes is relevant and ought to be disclosed.[3]

9. If an employer, having applied for an enhanced DBS check, later withdraws permission for the employee to work with children for safeguarding reasons, the employer must report this to the DBS.[4]

10. If the role is one in ‘regulated activity’, an enhanced certificate will also include details of whether a person is included on the barred lists. These are lists of individuals barred from working in regulated activity with children or adults. The DBS decides whether an individual should be added to the relevant list. A conviction or caution for a specified ‘automatic barring’ criminal offence will result in automatic inclusion on the relevant list. In other cases, the DBS will have to consider whether the individual has harmed a child or vulnerable adult, put them at risk of harm, or would put them at risk of harm if the behaviour being considered was repeated, and whether barring is proportionate. The DBS also decides whether an individual should be removed from the list, and enables checks of the list to be made by others, subject to certain qualifying criteria. It is an offence to work in regulated activity when barred from doing so, or to employ someone in such work who is barred.[5]

11. The DBS application form requires the applicant’s five-year address history. If the applicant has lived or travelled abroad in the preceding five years, details of the relevant countries and dates must be provided.[6]

The International Child Protection Certificate

12. The International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) scheme, introduced by NCA-CEOP in 2012, is non-statutory and sits outside the DBS framework. It is aimed at individuals and organisations based outside England and Wales, such as overseas schools, who could not obtain a DBS check.[7] The ICPC is promoted by the NCA through its network of international liaison officers (ILOs). To date, applications have been made for 55,709 ICPCs from 128 countries.[8]

13. An ICPC is in two parts.

  • Part 1 is provided by the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (ACRO). It includes known convictions, reprimands or warnings, as well as spent and unspent convictions and relevant offenders’ register entries, from the Police National Computer (PNC). It also contains information about offences committed in other countries, where it has been disclosed to the UK authorities.
  • Part 2 is provided by NCA-CEOP. It includes additional information or intelligence assessed as indicating that the applicant poses a potential risk to children.

14. The ICPC has generated significant interest because no other country operates such a scheme. The funds it generates from applications are invested in capacity-building programmes aimed at further improving the safeguarding of children overseas.[9]

Obtaining overseas criminal records

15. The Home Office provides guidance to employers based in England and Wales on how to obtain police records from particular countries.[10]

16. However, the labour laws of some countries prevent employers seeking criminal record vetting of their nationals. To address this, the British Council (as an example of a major British employer of individuals to work overseas) requires any individual engaged in a regulated activity anywhere in the organisation to sign a form declaring that he or she has no child protection concerns (including criminal convictions) in their background. In addition, it seeks to verify a person’s character and employment history using references.[11]

The inter-relationship between the schemes

17. Employer feedback to the DBS is that they find the disclosure and barring landscape complex. They find it difficult to establish which level of check can be sought, to which organisation to apply (the DBS, ACRO, Access Northern Ireland, Disclosure Scotland or overseas criminal records agencies directly), and what information can be disclosed on a certificate.[12] There is also confusion as to whether the enhanced DBS check or the ICPC are what was described to the Inquiry as representing the “gold standard”.[13]


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