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  • September 8th, 2015

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and 2014

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What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and why does it exist?

The general aim of this Act is to assist offenders back into society by not allowing their past mistakes affect and hinder the rest of their lives. The Act enables convictions for relatively minor offences to be spent after a certain period of time, otherwise referred to as a ‘rehabilitation period’. This means that for the time of conviction until it is spent, you will have to admit its existence, however after it is spent, as a rehabilitated offender, you will not need to declare it for most purposes unless it falls under one of the exceptions. The longer the sentence, the longer the rehabilitation period.

(Guidance on how long your sentence will take to become spent can be found at the bottom of the page.)

What does ‘spent’ mean?

A spent conviction is a conviction that can be ignored after a specified amount of time.

What are the exceptions?

There are certain exceptions where you must disclose your cautions and convictions even if these are spent. The occupations in the exclusions have been listed because of the nature of the specific job, including jobs working with children or vulnerable people, law enforcement and other legal professions or financial jobs.

If an exception applies, the employer can ask for a standard or in some case enhanced criminal records disclosure certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) previously known as the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

An employer cannot refuse to employ you simply because you have a spent conviction unless one of the exceptions apply.

So will my conviction be removed from my criminal record when it is spent?

Unfortunately, because of police policy, all cautions and convictions are kept on record until you reach 100 years of age because of prevention and detection of crime. This is mainly for police operational reasons.

How long will it take before it is considered spent?

The following tables set out periods it takes until a certain conviction becomes spent.

The sentences in this first table have rehabilitation periods that run from the end of the sentence.

NB: Time for conviction to become spent applies from the end date of the sentence.
Example: A conviction of an adult for a custodial sentence of 1 year becomes spent in 5 years time.
(1 year sentence + 4 years to become spent = 5 years total)

Sentence Adults
(Over 18 when convicted)Time for conviction to become spent (Sentence plus period below)
Youth
(Under 18 when convicted)Time for conviction to become spent (Sentence plus period below)
Imprisonment or a public protection sentence for over 4 years Never Spent Never Spent
Custodial sentence of over 30 months (2 1/2 years) to 48 months (4 years) 7 years 3 1/2 years
Custodial sentence of over 6 months to 30 months (2 1/2 years) 4 years 2 years
Custodial sentence of 6 months or less 2 years 18 months
Community order or Youth Rehabilitation order 1 year 6 months

The sentences in this second table have rehabilitation periods running from the date of conviction.

Example: An adult receiving a fine has to declare it for 1 year from the date they were convicted before it becomes spent.

Sentence Adults
(Over 18 when convicted)Time for conviction to become spent (Sentence plus period below)
Youth
(Under 18 when convicted)Time for conviction to become spent (Sentence plus period below)
Fine 1 year 6 months
Conditional discharge Duration of the order Duration of the order
Absolute discharge None None
Conditional caution or Youth Conditional caution 3 months or when caution ceases to have effect if earlier 3 months
Imprisonment Spent Spent
Simple caution or Youth caution Spent Immediately Spent Immediately
Compensation order When the order is paid in full When the order is paid in full
Binding over order Period of the order Period of the order
Attendance Centre Order Period of the order Period of the order
Hospital Order Period of the order Period of the order
Referral Order Not available for adults Period of the order
Reparation Order Not available for adults None

What happens if I get another conviction before my previous one is spent?

If you already have an unspent conviction and you are sentenced to another conviction then one of the following applies:

  1. If the new sentence is a caution then neither rehabilitation period will be affected. The rehabilitation period for the previous offence will become spent at the relevant date, and the caution will become spent in the normal period.
  2. If the new sentence is a conviction, then the rehabilitation periods for neither conviction will become spent until rehabilitation periods for both offences are over.
  3. If your new sentence is a custodial sentence or a public protection sentence for over 4 years then neither the first or second conviction will ever become spent.

Once a conviction is spent then it does not affect a later conviction.


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