Guidance for medical students on protected cautions, convictions and fixed penalty notices
The law is different across the United Kingdom so whether you need to declare a criminal matter to your medical school depends on the country where you are studying. This page will help explain the law in the four UK countries. If you are unsure you should speak to your medical school or seek independent legal advice.
At the point you apply for registration with the GMC (three months before you are due to start work as a doctor in the UK), you will need to declare certain criminal matters to us. At that point you will need to refer to English and Welsh law to decide whether you need to declare a criminal matter in your application to us, regardless of the country your medical school is in. Our webpage for applicants on declaring protected matters at the point of registration can be found here.
England and Wales
A caution is protected under English and Welsh law 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) and
- it is not for a 'listed offence' (see below).
A conviction is protected under English and Welsh law if:
- it is not for a ‘listed offence’ (see below) and
- you did not receive a custodial sentence and
- you have not been convicted of any other offence at any time and
- more than 11 years have passed since the date of conviction (or more than five years and six months have passed if you were under the age of 18 when convicted).
If you received a conviction or caution for a listed offence it will not be protected. Listed offences include serious violent or sexual offences and other offences, which are relevant to the role of a future registered doctor.
They also include equivalent offences for those committed outside of the UK.
You can find the offences that are listed and that will never be filtered from a criminal record on the Disclosure and Barring Service website.
Please note, the Disclosure and Barring Service say that it is not possible to have a definitive list of all equivalent offences under the law of all other jurisdictions. Where you are aware that you have committed an offence overseas which may be equivalent to an offence in the UK, you should seek independent expert or legal advice to ensure you provide information that is truthful and accurate.
Protected fixed penalty notices
Fixed penalty notices issued in Scotland are protected from disclosure in England and Wales following amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
The following organisations can provide further information or advice:
Disclosure and Barring Service
Customer Service: 0870 9090 811
NACRO Resettlement Advice Service
Helpline: 020 7840 1212
Helpline: 01634 247 350
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2013/50 (‘the Exceptions Order 2013’) makes certain convictions ‘protected’.
Under Scottish law, a protected conviction is defined as:
- one which is spent
- it is not a conviction for an offence listed in Schedule A1 or B1 of the Exceptions Order 2013, or
- it is a conviction for an offence listed in Schedule B1 and at least one of the following three conditions are met:
- the sentence imposed was an admonition or absolute discharge
- the person was under 18 at the time of the conviction and at least seven years and six months have passed since the conviction
- the person was aged 18 or over at the date of conviction and at least 15 years has passed since the conviction.
Cautions are not issued in Scotland. However, under Scottish law, cautions are protected, meaning you do not need to declare one issued in another country to a Scottish medical school when you apply to study or if you receive one while you are studying.
However, at the point of seeking registration, you will have to disclose receipt of a caution to the GMC (unless it is protected). This is because the GMC applies English & Welsh law to applications for registration; under which cautions are disclosable in certain circumstances.
If you receive a caution, the GMC may wish to see evidence of remediation when you apply for registration. If you wish to receive support from your school in evidencing remediation, you may consider disclosing the caution. However, there is no obligation upon you to do so, and the GMC cannot advise you to do so. As such, you may wish to seek independent legal advice.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) Order 2014/27 amended the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order (Northern Ireland) 1979 (‘the Exceptions Order 1979’) so as to make certain convictions protected.
Under Northern Irish law, a protected conviction is defined as:
- one given for an offence other than those listed in Article 1A(4) of the Exceptions Order 1979; and
- the offence did not result in a custodial sentence
- the person has not been convicted for another offence
- if the person was aged 18 or over at the time of conviction, 11 years have passed
- if the person was aged 18 or under at the time of conviction five and a half years have passed.
Under Northern Irish law, a protected caution is defined as:
- one given for an offence other than those specified in Article 1A(4)
- if aged 18 or over at the date of the caution, six years have passed
- if aged 18 or under at the time of the caution, two years have passed.