Can you gain security clearance with a caution or criminal conviction?

Published on: 14 Sep 2021

Security cleared jobs can offer lucrative career opportunities, but if you have a caution, juvenile record or other criminal conviction you may think this potential route is closed to you. While all such priors must be declared, you won’t automatically be rejected and every case will be reviewed on an individual basis and you could still find yourself in careers such as working with the police.

Do criminal convictions preclude security clearances?

If a serious conviction comes to light during the pre-vetting process, you’ll either fail to progress further or be told it’s not worth continuing. Otherwise, your caution or conviction will be assessed with reference to a number of factors. These include:

  • Your age at the time of the offence
  • Time that has elapsed since the offence was committed
  • The nature of the offence

Minor motoring offences and those that have been spent will not impede your chances of working with the police. Any convictions received whilst serving in the armed forces will be treated on a par with civilian convictions. An outstanding charge or court summons that could lead to a conviction will result in a delay to your application until the outcome is known.
Automatic exclusions

Among the serious offences that result in automatic exclusion from security clearance and working with the police are:

  • Any offence carrying a prison sentence
  • Serious violence committed as an adult
  • Corruption committed as an adult
  • Fraud committed as an adult
  • Serious drugs offences as an adult
  • Abuse of children as an adult
  • Causing death by dangerous driving
  • Hit and run
  • Dangerous or drink driving offences within the last ten years
  • Being found guilty of multiple drink driving offences

Family and friends with cautions, investigations or convictions

The element of security clearances that is often most surprising to applicants is that the cautions, investigations or convictions of family and friends is also taken into account. While these won’t automatically hinder your progress towards clearance, they must be declared.

Factors that will be considered include:

  • Your relationship to the offender
  • Number of offences
  • Severity of offences
  • Whether it could impact your role in the police
  • Whether it could cause damage to the force’s reputation
  • Whether your credibility could be brought into question
  • Does it represent a risk of information being breached?

The importance of declaring everything

While it’s natural not to want to declare anything that could hamper your police career, it’s much better to get everything out into the open. The vetting officer will help you to understand what’s relevant and what isn’t, but with all the information available, they can help you navigate the route towards security clearance.

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