If you have received a police caution then you may now just be discovering that its impact isn’t as insignificant as you may have been led to believe at the police station. Perhaps you were told that the caution would be a “slap on the wrist” and that it wouldn’t have any longstanding negative impact on your life.
It is true that a caution is usually less damaging than an actual conviction at Court, but it is completely untrue that a simple police caution will have no adverse consequences.
The truth is that a police caution will be recorded against your name, and depending on the type of offence charged, will be disclosable of a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS – formally known as the CRB) certificate for at least 6 years. If the caution is for an offence that appears on a proscribed list of offences, then the caution will remain potentially disclosable forever.
Previously all cautions were disclosable on CRB certificates (as they were then known) forever. However due to a recent court decision the government has implemented changes designed at limiting the long term impact of police cautions with a view to allowing individuals to genuinely put a one off incident behind them without fear of it being disclosed in future. At present the decision that brought in these changes is being appealed to the Supreme Court, and as such the final resting place of the disclosure rules is yet to be seen – in addition regulators may still try to take a more expansive approach to what needs to be disclosed to them as part of their vetting procedures.
Even if you have a caution for a minor offence, such as common assault or a low level harassment allegation, then the 6 year disclosure period will undoubtedly still have a significant impact on your professional career. If you are in a regulated environment such as a health care, law or finance, a caution for this type of offence will raise concerns for prospective or current employers.
It is possible, in certain circumstances, to have a police caution removed from the police computer so that it will not be disclosed on a DBS certificate. You can apply to the police direct to have the caution removed or you can issue judicial review proceedings to ask the High Court to “expunge” a caution from your record.
The basis of an application to remove a caution will usually need to be placed on solid legal footings and argued clearly and cogently in order for the police and/or court to be persuaded that the facts of your case reveal that a serious error or procedural impropriety has occurred which means the caution should be deleted. It will usually entail a close scrutiny of all the facts leading up to the allegation, how the investigation was conducted what information was given in respect of the caution and the basis on which the caution was accepted. It will usually involve tracking down disclosure of police records including police interview tapes, custody suite CCTV and records.
There is no reason why you can not undertake your own application to remove a caution, but by instructing a solicitor you will undoubtedly improve your odds of removal given the experience and legal expertise a lawyer will bring to your case.