Disclosure and declaring a criminal record

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

When applying for a job you might be asked about previous convictions.

There are basic rules about when you have to declare your criminal record and what checks can be made to verify this.

Check if you have to declare your criminal record

When applying for a job, the employer can ask you if you have any convictions. You do not have to answer, but you might not be offered the job if you choose not to.

If you do answer:

  • you do not have to declare spent convictions, unless you are applying for an exempt occupation such as a doctor or social worker

  • you will have to declare unspent convictions.

Spent and unspent convictions

Most offences will become spent after a certain period of time. You do not need to disclose a spent conviction for most employment or volunteering opportunities.

If you were convicted and sentenced for more than 48 months then you will always have to disclose that conviction.

When is the conviction spent

Length of sentence Aged 18 or over when convicted Aged 12-17 when convicted
Length of sentence

12 months or less

Aged 18 or over when convicted

term of sentence plus 2 years

Aged 12-17 when convicted

term of sentence plus 1 year

Length of sentence

Between 12 months and 30 months

Aged 18 or over when convicted

term of sentence plus 4 years

Aged 12-17 when convicted

term of sentence plus 2 years

Length of sentence

Between 30 months and 48 months

Aged 18 or over when convicted

term of sentence plus 6 years

Aged 12-17 when convicted

term of sentence plus 3 years

Length of sentence

48 months or more

Aged 18 or over when convicted

Cannot be spent

Aged 12-17 when convicted

Cannot be spent

If you have been sentenced by a court with a fine, community service, probation, community payback order, compensation order, drug treatment and testing order or restriction of liberty order the conviction is spent:

  • aged 18 or over when convicted - after 12 months or the length of the order, whichever is longest

  • aged 12 to 17 when convicted - after 6 months or the length of the order, whichever is longest.

What are relevant spent convictions

There are some convictions that are disclosed on higher level disclosures even when spent. These are known as relevant spent convictions.

There are 2 types of relevant spent convictions:

  • offences that are disclosed according to rules - such as fraud or theft

  • spent convictions which must be disclosed - unless a Sheriff says otherwise, such as rape, other sexual offences and certain terrorism and firearms offences.

You can apply to have these removed from your disclosure after 15 years, or after 7 years and 6 months if you were under 18 when convicted.

Read more about relevant spent convictions and how to apply to remove them from your disclosure certificate on mygov.scot.

If the conviction was from before you were 12

There are special rules about disclosure of convictions and behaviour that happened before you were 12 years old.

You can find out the rules about disclosure of behaviour under 12 years old on mygov.scot.

If you received a pardon

The Scottish government pardoned all men who were historically convicted of same-sex sexual activity. This means they are not guilty of the offence, but the conviction will still appear on official records.

They can apply to have the conviction removed from their records. This is called applying for a disregard.

You can find out more, including how to apply for a disregard on mygov.scot.

Disclosure checks you or an employer can apply for

Disclosure Scotland provide 3 types of disclosure for work or volunteering:

  • a basic disclosure

  • a standard disclosure

  • an enhanced disclosure.

The standard and enhanced disclosures, along with the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme membership, are sometimes known as 'higher level' disclosures.

The type of disclosure you need will depend on your circumstances.

You can read more about the different types of disclosure and how to apply for them on mygov.scot.

There’s information about getting a disclosure if you’re applying for a job in England or Wales on GOV.UK.

What is included on a disclosure certificate

All disclosure certificates show your name and date of birth. Other information will depend on the type of disclosure you apply for.

Basic disclosures only show unspent convictions, whilst higher level disclosures also show unspent cautions, relevant spent convictions and whether you are on the sex offenders register.

If you're self employed

If you’re self-employed you cannot get a standard or enhanced disclosure. You can only apply for a basic disclosure.

If you work with children or vulnerable adults then you might need to become a member of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Find out more about the PVG scheme.

Working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults

If you’re applying to work or volunteer with children or vulnerable adults, then your employer will make background checks to ensure you are suitable to work with vulnerable groups.

In most cases, you’ll need a disclosure check. You might also have to join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

Find out more about the PVG scheme.

Contact Disclosure Scotland

Disclosure Scotland

Tel: 0300 020 0040 (Monday to Thursday 9am to 4pm, Friday 9am to 3.30pm)

Email: response@disclosurescotland.gov.uk 

Website: www.mygov.scot