How long do I have to disclose (tell people about) my convictions?
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) or ‘ROA’ sets a time period, based on the sentence given, during which past convictions must be declared to employers or insurers. These ‘rehabilitation periods’ are many times longer than the actual sentence given and in some cases last forever. Until this period passes, the conviction is defined in law as unspent.
ROA enables some criminal convictions to become “spent”, or ignored, after a “rehabilitation period”.
A rehabilitation period is a set length of time from the date of conviction. After this period, with certain exceptions, an ex offender is not normally obliged to mention the conviction when applying for a job or obtaining insurance, or when involved in criminal or civil proceedings.
The Act is more likely to help people with few and/or minor convictions because of the way further convictions extend the rehabilitation period. People with many convictions, especially serious convictions, may not benefit from the Act unless the earliest convictions are very old.
The length of the rehabilitation period depends on the sentence given, not the offence committed.
For a custodial sentence, the length of time actually served is irrelevant – the rehabilitation period is decided by the original sentence. Custodial sentences of more than 48 months can never become spent.
The following sentences become spent after fixed periods:
– Sentence Rehabilitation Period
– People aged 18 or over when convicted People aged under 18 when convicted
– Prison sentence of 6 months or less Original sentence + 2 years Original sentence + 18 months
– Prison/YOI over 6 months up to 2 ½ years Original sentence + 4 years Original sentence + 2 years
– Prison/YOI over 2 ½ years up to 4 years Original sentence + 7 years Original sentence + 3 ½ years
– Community Service 1 year 6 months
– Fine 1 year 6 months
– Absolute discharge Spent immediately Spent immediately
See the Fresh Start FACT SHEET to learn more about how an unspent criminal conviction may affect your home and contents insurance, and the options that are available to you.
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