Q87: What is a subject access request and when is it appropriate to get one done?
An individual is entitled to exercise their rights to obtain information that is held about them under the Data Protection legislation. This process is known as a subject access request. This is not a criminal records check, it is intended for you to see what details the police systems hold about you.
A subject access request is an individual's right of access to verify the information held about them on police computers.
A subject access request to the Police National Computer for instance will either provide a certificate stating that there is currently no information held about you on the police national computer, or it will provide a list of all information held on the computer including all convictions regardless of whether they are spent or not and intelligence matters including not guilty verdicts, cautions, reprimands, final warnings, No Further Action decisions and fixed penalty notices for disorder.
By law, subject access checks have to be done within 1 month of the request being received. There is no charge for this service. Although the police will consider every request, they are under no obligation to provide all of the data and there are exceptions to providing data e.g. if it is likely to jeopardise an investigation. The NPCC Criminal Records Office provides Subject Access disclosures from the Police National Computer (PNC) on behalf of most police forces in England and Wales. If you require any local information as well as information from PNC then you need to apply to your force. See the link to NPCC in related information for details of how to do both.
In order to complete the form you need to provide two forms of identification, one with your name and preferably a photograph (passport or driving licence) and the other with your current address (a recent utility bill or bank statement) and a cheque or postal order for the appropriate sum.
It would be appropriate to get a subject access check done if you are emigrating to another country (see Q542) or if you want to check the information held about you on police computers is correct.
Subject access is not an appropriate process when going for a job or college course. This should be done through the Disclosure and Barring Service, or where the employer is only asking for current convictions, through the Basic Disclosure process afforded by Disclosure Scotland see Q624.
In fact, if an employer insists you do a subject access check and show him/her the results, before giving you a job, s/he commits an offence under Data Protection legislation.