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Criminal record disclosure timescales reduced for certain offences

on Friday, 10 November 2023.

The Government has shortened the period of time before which certain criminal offences can be considered 'spent'. The change will reduce the length of time individuals must declare certain criminal convictions in some job applications.

Spent convictions

The Government has announced changes to the rehabilitation periods that apply to certain criminal offences by making amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA 1974). A rehabilitation period is the period of time before which an offence can be considered 'spent'. Job applicants do not have to disclose spent convictions unless they are applying for a role that is exempt from the ROA 1974.

Previously, custodial sentences of four years or more would never become spent. This meant that some offenders would need to disclose convictions for the rest of their lives when seeking employment, applying for courses, insurance and housing. The Government has identified this as a significant barrier to the rehabilitation of offenders.

Less serious offences attracting custodial sentences of four years or more will now become spent seven years after the sentence has been completed (where the individual was over 18 at the time the sentence was imposed) or three and a half years after the sentence has been completed (where the individual was under 18 when the sentence was imposed). In both cases, the individual must not have re-offended within this timeframe.

More serious 'specified offences' are excluded from this change and it remains the case that they can never become spent. Specified offences are therefore disclosable to employers and will always be included in Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificates. 

Work with vulnerable groups

Stricter disclosure rules will continue to apply to jobs which involve working with vulnerable groups, as such work is exempt from the ROA 1974. Employers in the education, health care and social care sectors remain entitled to ask about and take into account spent convictions when making appointment decisions, unless a conviction has been designated as 'protected' under the DBS filtering rules. An offence which resulted in a custodial sentence cannot become protected however. These changes should not therefore affect the type of criminal records information that employers in these sectors are entitled to see during the recruitment process.

We have produced an Interim Safer Recruitment Update for our schools clients which explains this in more detail. Both academies and independent schools can access the update via our OnStream portal.

For more information or advice regarding spent criminal offences and their implications, please contact Richard Hewitt in our Employment team on 0117 314 5320, or complete the form below.

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