The following article focuses on the current process for criminal records checking in England and Wales. There are different rules for getting a criminal record check in Scotland and Northern Ireland. For more information about these, go to (for Scotland) and (for Northern Ireland).


The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), previously Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checking, enables businesses such as veterinary practices to check the criminal records of employees and potential employees, in order to ascertain whether they are suitable to work with vulnerable adults and children. The service helps businesses make safer recruitment decisions and prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable individuals. There will be many situations where employed adults may be working unsupervised with clients who may include vulnerable adults and children.

It is a legal requirement in the UK to refer safeguarding concerns to the DBS. It is illegal for anyone barred by the DBS to work in, or apply to work with, the sector (children or adults) from which they are barred. It is also illegal for a business to knowingly employ a barred person in the sector from which they are barred.

The DBS is responsible for:

•    processing requests for criminal records checks

•    deciding whether it is appropriate for a person to be placed on, or removed from, a barred list

•    placing or removing people from the DBS children’s barred list and/or adults’ barred list.

A business can ask for a DBS check for certain roles but job applicants cannot do a criminal records check on themselves, although potential employees can request a ‘basic disclosure’ which will inform them of any unspent convictions they may have.


Stages of the DBS checking process

The DBS checking process involves several different stages before an applicant receives their certificate.

Stage 1: The application form is received and validated.

Stage 2: The police national computer is searched.

Stage 3: The children’s and adults’ lists are searched, where applicable.

Stage 4: Records held by the police are searched.

Stage 5: A DBS certificate is printed. 

Types of check

Businesses can ask employees to apply for one of the following types of check depending on the job role.

•    Standard check – contains details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings from the Police National Computer (PNC).

•    Enhanced check – contains the same PNC information as the standard- level certificate but also includes a check of information held locally by police forces.

•    Enhanced check with a barred list check – contains the same PNC information and check of information held locally by police forces as an enhanced-level check but in addition the individual will be checked against the children’s and/or adult’s barred lists.

More information can be found on the Disclosure and Barring Checks section of

Example policy

The Code of Practice published under Section 122 of the Police Act 1997 states that it is a requirement that all registered bodies must treat DBS applicants who have a criminal record fairly and not discriminate because of a conviction or other information revealed.

The Code also obliges registered bodies to have a written policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders, a copy of which can be given to DBS applicants at the outset of the recruitment process. This policy statement can also be included within a veterinary practice’s equal opportunities policy.

An example policy statement is shown in the box (right).


How to get a DBS check

The veterinary practice will obtain an application form from either the DBS or an umbrella body (a registered body that gives access to DBS checks). More information can be found at the Disclosure and Barring Service section of

The form can be completed on paper or online.

•    The veterinary practice will provide the applicant with the form to be completed, which needs to be returned along with documents proving their identity.

•    It will send the completed application form to either the DBS or the umbrella body.

•    The DBS sends a certificate to the applicant. The employer will have to ask the applicant to see the certificate.

Documents the applicant must provide

The applicant going through a DBS check must provide original documents (not copies) to prove their identity. The veterinary practice should nominate a responsible person to collate the data.

The documents that are needed will depend on the route the application takes. The applicant must try to provide documents for Route 1 first. Examples of documents that can be shown in support of the application are shown in Table 1.

An applicant will be given a list of all the documents that can be used when submitting their application.

Route 1 The applicant must be able to show:

•    one document from Group 1

•    two further documents from either Group 1, or Group 2a or 2b.

At least one of the documents must show the applicant’s current address.

Route 2 If the applicant does not have any of the documents in Group 1, then they must be able to show:

•    one document from Group 2a

•    two further documents from either Group 2a or 2b.

At least one of the documents must show the applicant’s current address. The business conducting their ID check must then also use an appropriate external
ID validation service to check the application.

Route 3 can only be used if it has not been possible to process the application through Route 1 or Route 2.

The applicant must be able to show:

•    a birth certificate issued after the time of birth (UK and Channel Islands)

•    one document from Group 2a

•    three further documents from Group 2a or 2b.

At least one of the documents must show the applicant’s current address. If the applicant cannot provide these documents, they may need to be fingerprinted.

Reusing a DBS check

A DBS certificate only contains information from a DBS check on a certain date and for a particular purpose.

Employers can accept a previously issued certificate but they must check that:

•    the applicant’s identity matches the details on the certificate

•    the certificate is of the right level and type for the role applied for.

In order to carry out a free-of-charge status check to see if new information has come to light since the certi
ficate’s issue, the applicant must have already joined the DBS update service.

Employers can accept a previously issued certificate without a status check but at their own risk.

The DBS cannot provide replacements for lost or destroyed certificates.

Referring someone to DBS

Veterinary practices must refer someone to DBS if they:

•    sacked them because they harmed a child or adult

•    sacked them or removed them from working in regulated activity because they might have harmed a child or adult otherwise

•    were planning to sack them for either of these reasons but the person resigned first.

A veterinary practice is breaking the law if it does not refer someone to the DBS for any of these reasons. You can refer someone to the DBS by visiting or by contacting the DBS Helpline on 01325 953795.


Applicants and veterinary practices may both be able to appeal against a barring decision following a check. The decision could be changed if the appeal is successful.
The content of a DBS certificate can be challenged or disputed if it contains an error or inaccurate information. Challenges should be made immediately by contacting the DBS and should be raised within three months of the date of issue on the certificate.

There are two types of dispute:

•    Profile dispute – where personal information on the DBS certificate appears to be incorrect, including names, date of birth, gender, place of birth, address details, employers’ details or registered body / countersignatory details.

•    Disclosure dispute – where any of the following arise:
         o conviction details not relating to the applicant have been disclosed on the certificate 

         o conviction details relating to the applicant have been disclosed which are considered to be inaccurate or irrelevant.

The DBS will fully investigate the dispute and if necessary arrange for the external organisation that owns the disputed information to investigate the matter urgently. If, after investigation, the dispute is upheld, DBS will arrange for a replacement certificate to be issued. 

For further advice, please contact the BVNA Advisory Service on 01822 870270 or email


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky is the owner of HR Support Consultancy, She has a BA(Hons) degree in Business Studies, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has been a practising HR manager for more than 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA Members Advisory Service (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Service) since it began in 2002.

To cite this article, use either
DOI: 10.1111/vnj.12194 or Veterinary Nursing Journal VOL 29 pp 369-37l

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 29 • November 2014 •