Differences between unspent and spent convictions

Aim of this information

This information sets out the differences between spent and unspent convictions.

This is part of our information on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Why is this important

It’s really important to know what the differences are between unspent and spent convictions. Specifically, so you are clear about what you legally need to disclose to employers, insurers and housing providers for example.


Whether a criminal record is unspent or spent depends on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The first thing you need to do is find out when your record is spent.

This page is also helpful in understanding the results you’ve received from theCalculator.

Convictions that are unspent

  • If asked by an employer, you have to disclose them, and they can legally refuse you or discriminate against you.
  • They will be disclosed on all types of criminal record disclosure (basic, standard and enhanced).
  • If asked, you will have to disclose them when applying for products and services, such as insurance, a mortgage or renting a house.
  • You could be prosecuted if you fail to disclose them when asked.

Convictions that are spent

  • For most jobs, you do not need to disclose them to an employer, even if they ask about convictions.
  • They will not be disclosed on a basic criminal record check.
  • For some jobs (those exempt from the ROA), you will need to disclose them if asked – these jobs will usually involve a standard or enhanced criminal record check, so even if they don’t ask, if they are doing one of these, you should disclose (unless it will be filtered)
  • They will still be disclosed on standard and enhanced criminal record checks (unless filtered), and for positions that are eligible for standard or enhanced checks. When asked you have to disclose, employers can legally refuse you or discriminate against you.
  • You do not need to disclose them to insurers when purchasing insurance.
  • You might need to disclose them when travelling or working outside of England and Wales
  • They will remain on your record for life – they will not be deleted.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information regarding this can be found at Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
  4. Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on this issue.

Get involved

Help us to add value on this information. You can:-

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, the Record
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