Criminal record checks in Northern Ireland

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In Northern Ireland, criminal record disclosure checks are carried out by AccessNI.

Organisations that want to request AccessNI disclosure on candidates must either become a registered body (this is only suitable for large organisations) or use an umbrella body that is registered with AccessNI. You can see a full list of umbrella bodies on the Department of Justice for Northern Ireland website

Depending on the nature of the work, an employer may ask for a basic, standard or an enhanced disclosure.

Anyone working in "regulated activity" with children should undergo an enhanced disclosure with a check against the barred lists, that is adults barred from working with children. The definitions for regulated activity are set out in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Regulated activity includes unsupervised activities which involve regularly caring for, training, teaching, instructing, supervising, providing advice/guidance on wellbeing, or driving a vehicle for children under 18; or working for a limited range of "specified places" with opportunity for unsupervised contact with children.

Enhanced disclosures should also be requested for any position where an individual has regular contact with children. However for positions outside the scope of regulated activity it is not possible to check against barred lists. An enhanced dsclosure contains details of spent and unspent convictions and cautions plus other relevant information held in police records. It indicates whether the applicant is on the DBS's list of adults barred from working with children (if this has been requested).

Registered bodies must comply with the Code of Practice which is intended to ensure that information released in standard and enhanced disclosures is used fairly. It seeks to ensure that sensitive personal information is handled and stored appropriately and kept for only as long as is necessary. Disclosure checks should be stored securely and destroyed after six months.

It is an offence to knowingly employ anyone in regulated activity if they appear on the list of adults barred from working with children.

From the information disclosed by AccessNI, the organisation must decide whether the individual is suitable for the position being offered. If the information suggests that an individual might pose a risk to children, then the employer must undertake a robust risk assessment before deciding whether to appoint them. At the moment, organisations should not accept AccessNI checks undertaken for previous roles in other organisations.

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