How to check my criminal background

Updated March 23, 2017

A criminal background check is used to disclose an individual's criminal past. Employers may require that you submit and pass a criminal background check as a condition to employment, as some employers are required by law to obtain criminal background checks on potential employees. It is mandatory in the UK for people who want to work with children or other members of society that are deemed to be "vulnerable." The process is also known as “Disclosure,” where employers usually require this information before hiring an applicant.

Before requesting a background check on yourself, it is important that you understand the scope of a criminal background check and the general procedure for obtaining a criminal background check.

England and Wales criminal check (see below for Scotland and N.I.)

There are several categories of criminal checks that you can do and they are all carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously CRB checks).

If you are an employer then you should ask the applicant to directly fill in the form for a criminal record check, criminal background check, CRB check or DBS check. The various categories of criminal checks will depend on the job in question.

If you want to run a basic personal check on yourself and you live in either England or Wales then you can apply for basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland. This branch deals with requests from all over the UK. See below for details of this process.

Scotland (and basic disclosure for UK)

You can apply for basic disclosure online or, if working with children and vulnerable members of society, then for the enhanced disclosure. You should go to the disclosure website (see resources) and request either a basic or enhanced disclosure form. You will be asked to fill out personal details. The online process times out after 15 minutes and any information entered will be lost if you do not finish before the time runs out. To ensure this does not happen you need to have the following information at hand:

Passport Driving Licence National Insurance Number Electricity Bill Previous Disclosure Address details covering at least the last five years Employer's address if your Disclosure is to be sent there Credit or debit card

The process will cost you £25.00, which includes the cost of First Class Postage within the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland

There are three types of disclosure in Northern Ireland. All individual citizens can apply for basic disclosure (see resources). The Basic Disclosure Certificate will show details of all convictions considered to be unspent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, or state that no such convictions were found.

You will have to print a copy of the form from the website and fill in the personal details. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is then required to validate your identity. This means you should go to your local branch with some form of identification and the completed form. The police will stamp the form which should then be sent to Access Northern Ireland with the fee:

Access Northern Ireland PO Box 1085, Belfast BT5 9BD 0300 200 7888


Normally, employers aren’t allowed to ask job applicants about spent convictions, but for jobs that need a DBS check this rule doesn’t apply.


It is unlawful to submit a criminal background check form using another person's personal information or purposefully submit erroneous information.

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About the Author

M. Wade is a licensed attorney and writer. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and University of Louisville and has been published in the University of Louisville Law Review, The Brand, and Blackline. She has been a writer for Demand Studios since August 2008.