Reporting criminal convictions and cautions

What you need to know about your duty to declare any cautions or convictions as a dental professional.

Convictions and cautions

Dentists, dental hygienists, and dental care professionals are subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2013 which came into force on 29 May 2013.

  • In Scotland, this is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2013/50 ('the Exceptions Order 2013').
  • Northern Ireland is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order (Northern Ireland) 1979 ('the Exceptions Order 1979').
  • This means that even if you received a conviction or caution many years before, the conviction/caution may not be regarded as 'spent' after a period of rehabilitation, as would usually be the case and thus may still need to be disclosed.

Additionally, the GDC states that since 2003, all dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists have been required to declare criminal convictions and/or cautions when registering with the General Dental Council and since 14 May 2009 clinical dental technicians, dental nurses, dental technicians and orthodontic therapists have been required to do the same.

What you need to disclose

  • All unspent convictions and cautions must be disclosed just like any job or activity not covered by the Exceptions Order.
  • 'Spent' convictions and cautions need to be disclosed UNLESS they are deemed 'protected' - which means they are not required to be disclosed, and they can't be taken into account when making a decision on an individual's suitability to carry out a particular occupation.

Regional differences

In England and Wales, protected cautions, convictions and fixed penalty notices can be summarised as follows.

Protected cautions

A caution is protected if:

  • you were under 18 years of age at the time the caution was given
  • you were 18 years of age or older at the time the caution was given, it was for an offence other than a listed offence (see below), and six or more years have passed since the caution was given.

Protected convictions

A conviction is protected if all of the following points apply:

  • it is not for a 'listed offence', and
  • you did not receive a custodial sentence, 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).

Listed offences

  • 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 dental professional. They also include equivalent offences for those committed outside of the UK.

You can find these offences, which will never be filtered from a criminal record, on the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) website.

The Disclosure and Barring Service says it is not possible to have a definitive list of all equivalent offences under the law of all other jurisdictions. Where you are aware you have committed an offence overseas that may be equivalent to an offence in the UK, you should seek advice to make sure you give true and accurate information.

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.

Under Scottish law, a protected conviction is defined as:

  • one which is spent

and is either:

  • not a conviction for an offence listed in Schedule A1 or B1 of the Exceptions Order 2013, or
  • a conviction for an offence listed in Schedule B1 - and at least one of the following three conditions are met:
    1. the sentence imposed was an admonition or absolute discharge
    2. the person was under 18 at the time of the conviction and at least seven years and six months have passed since the conviction
    3. 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 dental school when you apply to study or if you receive one while you are studying. However, when seeking registration, you will have to disclose receipt of a caution to the GDC (unless it is protected).

Registrants and those applying for registration1 or restoration are required to declare all convictions and cautions that are not considered 'protected'2.

Northern Ireland

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
    • 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.

We recommend seeking legal advice on protected cautions under Northern Irish law.

Student fitness to practise (FTP)

If you receive a criminal conviction or caution while at dental school, it may initially be dealt with through your school's disciplinary procedures or the student FTP procedures.

If your fitness to practise is found to be impaired, you may be given conditions or undertakings, suspended, or even expelled from the dental course.

  • If you're a DDU student member facing an FTP procedure, remember you can always approach the DDU for advice.

GDC registration

On 30 September 2013, the GDC published guidance requiring all registrants to inform the GDC if on or after that date they:

  • are charged with a criminal offence
  • are found guilty of a criminal offence
  • receive a conditional discharge for an offence
  • accept a criminal caution (including a conditional caution), or otherwise formally admit to committing a criminal offence
  • accept the option of paying a penalty notice for a disorder offence (in England and Wales), a penalty notice under the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 or a fixed penalty notice under the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004
  • receive a formal adult warning in Scotland.

You don't need to tell the GDC about:

  • a fixed penalty notice for a road traffic offence
  • a fixed penalty notice issued by local authorities (for example, for offences such as dog fouling, or graffiti)
  • an anti-social behaviour, preventative justice, or other social order.

For existing registrants, both self-referred and third-party referred cautions and convictions will be processed by the fitness to practise department.

For third-party referrals, the GDC will consider whether an allegation of misconduct arises from the registrant's failure to notify the GDC of the offence, or if a false declaration was made by the registrant on their application.

The GDC has the power to refuse an application to the register if it considers the applicant is not fit to practise or poses a risk to patient safety. When making its decision, the GDC considers:

  • if the response is proportionate
  • the impact of the decision on the applicant
  • the seriousness of issues raised
  • potential implications for public and patient safety
  • confidence and trust in the profession if registration is granted.

Police forces are obliged to notify the GDC and employers about any convictions, cautions or warnings for 'recordable offences', unless there are 'exceptional reasons not to do so'.

If the GDC is notified of a criminal conviction or caution while you are on the register, even if the offence is not directly connected with dental practice (such as drink-driving) the GDC will investigate and decide if you need to face a hearing.

It's then up to the practice committee to decide whether and what further action is required.

  • DDU members with specific questions about their obligations to report a conviction or caution can contact our dento-legal helpline for specific advice.

See also the GDC's guidance on reporting criminal proceedings.

It is important that you self-report any charges or convictions that the GDC expects you to. Failure to do so could lead to action being taken against your registration.


Whenever you apply for a job in dentistry or go on a performer's list, you will almost certainly be asked to declare all convictions as part of the application process, including those that would ordinarily be regarded as 'spent'.

As well as a self-declaration, you will require a DBS check before taking up a new post.

1 Except exempt persons applying to provide services on a temporary and occasional basis under section 36Z3 and Schedule 4 of the Dentists Act 1984 (as amended)

2 The Police Act 1997 and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 Remedial Order 2015 makes certain changes to the way in which individuals and Disclosure Scotland are required to disclose details of convictions and cautions, particularly in relation to the category of spent convictions appearing on the "offences which are to be disclosed subject to rules" list. Please refer to the Disclosure Scotland website to determine whether the Order applies to the application.

This page was correct at publication on 06/04/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.