Changes to “spent” conviction rules

There is new legislation in place around the length of time it takes for some offences to become “spent” or expired.   The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 introduced the concept of spent convictions, whereby people with eligible criminal convictions and cautions can wipe the slate clean after a specified period of time.

From October 2023 legislation broadened the scheme to enable more offenders to benefit from this.  The changes significantly reduce, for most offences, the time for convictions to become spent, while extending the scheme to those sentenced to imprisonment for at least four years.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, a spent conviction does not need to be disclosed to most employers. Employers are prohibited from requesting information about spent convictions or cautions, unless in specific circumstances. The ‘exceptions order’ details those roles that may require an individual to disclose a spent conviction or caution; for instance, working with children or vulnerable groups of people or working in the legal or financial sectors, which usually need a standard or enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate. 

The changes mean that both a community order and a youth rehabilitation order will become spent at their expiry, abolishing the additional year or six months respectively that were previously required to have elapsed before either sanction was spent. 

For those sentenced to imprisonment of one year or less, their conviction is spent 12 months after the expiry of the term of their sentence (or six months for those under 18). For a sentence of imprisonment between one and four years, meanwhile, a conviction becomes spent after the sentence period is complete plus four years. 

These changes regarding spent convictions will open many doors of opportunity for those who, after serving lengthy terms of imprisonment in the past for certain offences, have been either dissuaded or inhibited from applying for job opportunities.

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