Cautions must be declared to healthcare regulatory bodies such as the NMC, GMC, GDC, HCPC and GPhC.  There is often uncertainty over cautions, what they are and whether they should be declared.  

What is a police caution?

There is often a misconception that a police caution is a “slap on the wrist” or a warning.  This is not correct.  Police cautions are much more important and serious than merely a warning.  

A police caution is an alternative means of discharging an offence – often less serious offences.  This means that instead of being charged and prosecuted for an offence, the “penalty” for committing an offence can be settled by accepting a caution. 

In order for the police to offer someone a caution, certain conditions must be met: 

  • there must be reasonable suspicion to believe an offence has been committed
  • the offender must admit that they are guilty of the offence
  • the offender must understand the significance of a caution and give informed consent to being cautioned.

Protected cautions

In May 2013, changes were made to legislation allowing for certain minor cautions to be removed or ‘filtered’ from standard or enhanced DBS certificates. These changes are only applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Filtering is the term used to describe the process which will identify and remove protected cautions (and convictions) so that they are no longer disclosed on a DBS certificate.  Protected cautions also therefore do not need to be disclosed by healthcare registrants on application or revalidation for roles that require standard or enhanced DBS checks. 

A caution is generally protected if more than six years have passed since you received the caution (or more than two years have passed if you were under the age of 18 at the time of the caution). 

Note however that not all cautions accepted more than six years ago will be protected.  Cautions relating to serious offences from a list agreed by Parliament will never be filtered and are therefore not considered protect. 

Should I declare it?

It is very important to understand the difference because the status of your caution will dictate whether you will be required to declare it. 

Protected cautions generally do not need to be declared and cannot be taken into account when considering fitness to practise of a registrant.  However, if your caution is one relating to an offence on this list, you must be declared

Further resources and guidance: 

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