Criminal records regime change for children

The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Record Certificates: Relevant Matters) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2020 

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2020 

Statutory Instruments making changes to the criminal records regime have now passed into law and will come into effect from 28th November 2020. The changes will mean that no youth cautions, youth conditional cautions, reprimands or warnings will be automatically disclosed on standard or enhanced criminal record checks. The legislation also changes the rules around minor convictions.


Youth Cautions

No Youth Cautions, Youth Conditional Cautions, Reprimands or Warnings received in childhood will be automatically disclosed on standard or enhanced DBS checks. This will be the case regardless of the offence.

This is a very significant change which will impact huge numbers of people when applying for jobs and education opportunities. On average, over the last 10 years, 25,000 cautions a year are administered to children.

Multiple convictions

The changes have also removed the ‘multiple conviction rule’, which meant that if an individual had more than one conviction, regardless of offence type or time passed, all convictions would be automatically disclosed in DBS checks.

Under the updated rules, each conviction is considered against the filtering rules individually, and therefore provided it is for a minor offence which didn’t lead to a custodial sentence, it will not be disclosed once the relevant time period has passed, even if there is more than one conviction on the record.

What hasn’t changed?

The list of offences which count as ‘specified’, convictions which will never be filtered, will remain the same, as will the rule that any conviction which resulted in a prison sentence will not be filtered. The time periods after which a spent conviction will no longer be disclosed have also not changed (11 years unless under 18 when convicted, then it is 5 and a half years).

The police will also still retain the discretion to disclose non-conviction information which they consider to be relevant, which may include youth cautions, on enhanced DBS checks. However, this power is only used in the most exceptional circumstances, for a miniscule fraction of potentially disclosable information. If you are aware of anyone affected by this discretion, please contact Just for Kids Law’s public law team on 020 3174 2279 or email


These changes, which were prompted by the successful Supreme Court challenge taken by Just for Kids Law, together with Unlock and Liberty, are an important first step in achieving a fairer and more proportionate system. Just for Kids Law continues to campaign for a review of the entire criminal records regime for children and young people.

See Just for Kids Law’s press release here.