‘Positive’ DBS Check information guidance

Conviction, reprimand, caution or warning information on a ‘Positive’ DBS Check

Consider how long since the offence(s) occurred and the age at which it occurred.  Look at the pattern and frequency of offending – was it a series of unrelated trivial offences committed by a teenager or is it a consistent pattern of, for example, violent offending or is it a one-off?    

1 Disposals – Pre-Court

Fixed penalty notices are given for less serious offences such as parking tickets, speeding, graffiti, dog fouling, litter and public disorder.  These appear on the Police National Computer (PNC) and are classed as offences.

1.1    Adults

Restorative Disposal:  given where a victim of crime requests an alternative to the criminal justice system to deal with a local minor crime.  The crime is dealt with in a way which achieves a positive outcome in accordance with the victim’s wishes without the case going through the court process.  The crime will be recorded as usual but dealt with in a more proportionate way.

Cannabis warning:  a form issued to the offender by a police officer.  Only one Cannabis warning can be given, with a second offence requiring a fixed penalty notice and a third a charge to court.  Admission of ownership is recorded and the person will sign the record.

Simple caution:  is a formal notice from a police officer that the individual has committed a minor offence (usually only if the individual has not been in trouble before).

Conditional caution:  involves the individual keeping to certain conditions e.g. paying compensation, writing a letter of apology, cleaning graffiti or engaging in a drug-rehabilitation programme.

Penalty notice for Disorder (also available for 16 and 17 year olds):  is available for some less serious offences whether or not the individual admits the offence.  The individual can then admit the offence and pay a fixed fine within 21 days or deny the offence within the same 21 day period and ask for a court hearing.

1.2    Young People

Youth Restorative Disposal:  is given where a victim of crime requests an alternative to the criminal justice system to deal with a local minor crime.  The crime is dealt with in a way which achieves a positive outcome in accordance with the victim’s wishes without the case going through the court process.  The crime will still be recorded as usual but dealt with in a more proportionate way.

Reprimand:  was a formal verbal warning given by a police officer to a young person who admits a minor first offence.

Final Warning:  was a formal verbal warning given by a police officer to a young person who admits a minor first or second offence.  They will be assessed by the Youth Offending Service (YOS) to determine the causes of their offending behaviour. 

The above were replaced by Youth Cautions and Youth Conditional Cautions in April 2013.

2 Court Disposals

2.1    Adults

Fines: are available to both magistrates’ and crown courts for a wide variety of offences.

Conditional Discharge:  A discharge of a convicted defendant without sentence on condition that he/she does not re-offend within a specified period of time.

Bind over: Ordered by the court to do (or not to do) something e.g. keep the peace.  Failure will incur a penalty.

Community Order (older convictions may have Probation Order):  combines punishment with changing offenders’ behaviour and making amends – sometimes directly to the victim of the crime.  It can also encourage the offender to deal with any problems that might be making them commit crime e.g. drugs and comes with a range of requirements to cover this e.g. unpaid work, participation in specified activities or programmes aim at changing offending behaviour.

2.2    Young People

Young people who committed an offence before 30 November 2009 may have been sentenced to one of the following: 

  • Supervision Order
  • Community Rehabilitation Order
  • Community Punishment Order
  • Action Plan Order
  • Attendance Centre Order. 

They have been replaced by, and are now part of, the Youth Rehabilitation Order:

Rehabilitation Order:  is a robust alternative to custody and comes with a range of requirements designed to address young people’s offending behaviour e.g. curfew requirement, unpaid work requirement, drug testing requirement, education requirement.

Reparation Order: a young person will complete work to repair the harm caused.

Referral Order:  a young person will appear before a community Panel to agree a contract designed to repair the harm and prevent reoffending by addressing the issues which have contributed to offending.

Prison Sentences:  are imposed on both adults and juveniles only for the most serious offences.  The length of the sentence imposed by the court will be limited by the maximum penalty for that crime.

A custodial sentence can only be imposed if:

  • The offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence; or
  • The offender refuses to comply with the requirements of a community order; or
  • The offender is convicted or a specified sexual or violent offence (see Dangerous Offender provisions under Criminal Justice Act 2003) and the court finds that the offender poses a risk of harm to the public


An assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly applies unlawful force to another.

Intentionally is self-explanatory i.e. the assailant intended to do what they did.  Recklessly means that whilst what resulted from their actions might not have been intentional, the assailant should have reasonably foreseen the consequences of what they did e.g. that pushing somebody from a high wall was likely to result in injury.

Different levels of seriousness

As a general rule the only factors that distinguish between the various offences involving assault is the degree of injury that results.

In ascending order of seriousness, the different offences involving assault likely to come within the range of Referral Orders are as follows:-

Common Assault, contract to Section 3, Criminal Justice Act 1988

This offence is sometimes described as “battery” or assault by beating” resulting for example in comparatively minor injuries not amounting to more than the following:

  • Grazes
  • Scratches
  • Abrasions
  • Minor bruising
  • Swellings
  • Reddening of the skin
  • Superficial cuts
  • A ‘black eye’

The above are regarded as likely to be short term in nature.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, contrary to Section 47, Offences against the Person Act 1861.

Injuries falling within the ambit of this offence are those where for example any pain and/or discomfort is likely to last longer e.g.

  • Loss or breaking of tooth or teeth
  • Temporary loss of sensory functions e.g. unconsciousness
  • Extensive or multiple bruising
  • Displaced broken nose
  • Minor factures
  • Minor but not merely superficial cuts probably requiring medical treatment e.g. stitches
  • Psychiatric injury that is more than mere emotions such as fear, distress or panic

Offences above this category generally involve even more serious injury and unlawful force.

Unlawful wounding/inflicting grievous bodily harm, contrary to Section 20, Offences against the Person Act, 1861

Grievous bodily harm means serious bodily harm; wounding means the breaking or the whole outer skin or inner skin of the cheek or lip.  Generally, it is the seriousness of any harm that will determine the appropriate offence.

Examples of what would usually amount to serious harm include:

  • Injury resulting in permanent disability or permanent loss of sensory function e.g. blindness
  • Injury which results in more than minor permanent, visible disfigurement e.g. serious scarring
  • Broken or displaced limbs or bones, including fractured skull, broken cheek bone, jaw, ribs etc
  • Injuries resulting in lengthy treatment or incapacity, including psychiatric injury.

The principle of this offence is that whilst the assailant may not have intended it, the assault nonetheless resulted in serious injury to the victim.  This is the most important element in deciding between this and the more serious offence falling with Section 18, Offences Against the Person Act 1861 outlined below:

Wounding/causing grievous bodily harm with intent, contrary to Section 18, Offences against the Person Act 1861.

The essence of this offence is that the assailant intended to inflict the serious injury or injuries to the victim.  Evidence of such intent might include:

  • A repeated or planned attack
  • Deliberate selection of a weapon or adaptation of an article to cause injury e.g. breaking a beer glass before an attack
  • Making prior treats
  • Using an offensive weapon e.g. knife
  • Kicking the victim’s head

To illustrate the seriousness of this offence, next comes attempted murder and murder.  The difference between murder and manslaughter again depends on the intention of the assailant.

Was this page helpful?

Very poor
Neither good nor poor
Very good