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.

Introduction

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
  • SYSY

    WOW, A LOT OF PEOPLE & SO-CALLED “REPUTABLE ORGANISATIONS” DON’T KNOW THE LAW ….I TOUGHT THAT WHEN YOU GET OVER 2 1/2 YEARS, IT WILL NEVER BE SPENT!(?) WHEN I USED THE CALCULATOR ON UNLOCK IT WAS SO USEFUL. I GOT 3 1/2 IN 2009 AND IT WILL BE SPENT IN 2020.:-) THAT WAS SUCH A RELEIF AS I THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE TO DISCLOSE THIS 1 MISTAKE IN MY LIFE, FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I REALLY ADVISE THAT EVERYONE WITH A LEGAL “THORN” IN THEIR SIDE DOES THE RESERCH. IT SERIOUSLY GIVES YOU A PIECE OF MIND AND ALSO THE EMPOWERMENT TO MOVE ON AND NOT FEEL LIKE A TOTAL LET DOWN. NUFF LOVE AND HAPPINESS 2 ALL. IT’S NICE 2 BE NICE!!!

  • rachel

    Yeah I hear u in terms of feeling like a mistake can hinder you and applying for future employment.

  • Simone Anglin

    This is helpful but I’ve found people still discriminate me based on my conviction which was spent from 2006. I’m now nurse and whenever I go for jobs I do well at interview get the job offer pending checks then crb comes oh offer withdrawn !! even when I declare previous convictions this country is a joke

  • linda

    hi Simone. same situ with me, its nice to know i’m not alone with this DBS curse. I have a minor conviction which was spent after a year. I see this conviction as absolutely nothing to do with my career. I’m not a danger to vulnerable groups and take my profession very seriously.

  • Simone Anglin

    Just keep at it that’s all I can say as its very painful

  • priscilla cooper

    Same hun. How do people who have been to Jail get a Job??? From when you was a child or 10 years after a conviction you are 2 different people! If the crime is in relation to the Job, i.e Assault on a child and you want to work as a Teacher i get that there is no chance you can work with kids again….makes me angry too Simone. The law needs changing so people get a chance and not punished for trying to go out and work hard.

    Priscilla.

  • You might find it helpful to take part in our online forum, where you can discuss this in more detail. The ‘comments’ part of the Hub can be difficult to discuss these things with others, which is why we have the forum, as a safe space for people to share experiences with others. You can take part @ http://forum.unlock.org.uk/

  • jennifer

    I was convicted 2004 when I was 17 im now 28 got a lovely family and just want to start a good career & my conviction is spent & employers hold it against me when I apply for jobs how is anyone supposed to carry on with their life & do well after this when the government or sociaty don’t give you a chance it’s bull & unfair

  • Masty

    i pled guilty to common assault charges, was deferred for good behaviour so i have not yet had my sentence/punishment so to speak, does that mean i have no convictions right now at this moment?

  • smexy

    I pleaded guilty to theft in 2001 and got 8 weeks in prison but only served 4 weeks the other 4 weeks were spent on licence . I didn’t know that I had to disclose my conviction as I thought it was spent . I have just started a new job and it looks like I’m going to loose it as I didn’t declare my conviction

  • jml3589

    I recently got arrested for snacking my child on her legs for being cheeky. I regretted the incident. Upshot is l am going to be issued a simple caution. Problem is l have to resign from my job as l work for the police. Now l face the prospect of losing my house, my employment all for a one off incident.

    God knows what l’m going to do for employment

  • Hot_T

    I got a four year sentence in 1996 and thought that I would have to declare my conviction for life, it appears that since the ROA was ammended in 2014 my conviction is now spent. A bit late for me in applying for jobs as I have just retired, but I did manage to have a very successful career which resumed almost immediately after my release from prison. You need to try and identify jobs where they are unlikely to ask if you have a conviction, if they do ask then just move on to the next application, my best advice to anyone is don’t declare your conviction unless you absolutly have to, best to just walk away, dont even apply for jobs that ask for conviction details, you probably wont get them and your details could be passed on to other people/organizations….just keep on trying and good luck!

  • Ann fairhurst

    I was convicted in 1995 for claiming benefits whilst working for a month, I held down a job in the caring spectre for 15 years with their knowledge, until an outside agency came on board with the company and requested an up to date enhanced crb. I was instantly dismissed. I have been unemployed for the last 3 years, and find it impossible to find work due to the conviction.. I have written to the police/ courts involved and have been informed that the conviction will stay… I have become increasingly depressed , has anyone else ever come across my scenario and was there a happier outcome? Any suggestions welcome.

  • Richard

    I was recently turned down for a job in the education sector, even though I have worked in education since my suspended sentence, even though my conviction was spent in 2009. Employers need to realise that having a criminal conviction does not always mean that you are a bad person. It can simply mean that under immense duress and depression you have made an uncharacteristic, stupid life choice. It is bad enough that when you declare your conviction that you are punished again by insurance companies charging you more, but for employers to discriminate against you I feel is appalling. I understand that some jobs you cannot be consider for with a conviction but mine was not a safeguarding issue and neither would I ever put myself in any criminal situation again. Mistakes are only mistakes if you learn from them and my experience has actually given me empathy toward the learners who I support.

  • N

    I have A conviction from 1995 and 21 years later it still haunts me. I get the job but then they withdraw the offer, I obtained benefit for 1 week while working a temp job, went to court got 2yrs conditional discharge and costs. it comes up on my DBS and as soon as they see that it goes down hill, too many narrow minded people.

  • pele butcher

    We need a complete overhaul in the employment industry. Qualifications are a joke and so is discrimination on bounds of criminal records. The only people losing out are the people.

  • Adrian Robinson

    I had a very misspent childhood and adolescence that led on to homelessness. All my convictions were for shoplifting and always food. i ended up in Borstal for most of 1986/87, due to being homeless and no fixed abode. since then nothing not even a caution or a stop and search, i am a pillar of my community and i campaign to eradicate child maltreatment. I chose to work predominantly in health and social care and have been registered as a care manager in adult services .
    I have suffered greatly in employment searches, i find a job, i get interviewed then i declare my discrepancy from my child hood then i don’t get the job.
    I must apply for 10/20 jobs a week i reckon most decline me due to my stupid years.
    I have the same passion and commitment as the person with no convictions and even jobs that say we will not judge, they judge; i know this because i worked for a company that did that so know first hand.
    I get why the DBS is there and understand we do not want any more Huntly cases, but i am sure there must be an easier way to assess individuals with convictions and there suitability for job roles. What about my human rights and my feelings.
    I was a product of an abusive childhood leading to a homeless vulnerable person and i am still paying the price.

  • amy cole

    Hi Simone in 2015 I was given a simple caution for theft and in 2016 this year I was arrested and was given a criminal record for 2 attempts off burgley. I was given a court date and sent to court in November last month. I know how hard it is to get a job when we do these series things but we just don’t think at the time. I used to be a nurse myself and I would like to get back to nursing in the future but because of my stupid mistakes I have made in the passed no one wants to employ me in any job I am now job less and claiming benefits but I am hoping in a few years time someone might give me that chance I hope.

  • Gary Brooks

    Have you been convicted of a criminal offence? Do I answer yes or no….. I have two cautions

  • Boris

    Has anyone travelled to the US with a spent conviction?
    Was it declared or not when applying for a US visa?

  • Miranda Badtothebone

    Employers should not be privy to your background information, unless they are willing to reveal to you the person who is doing a search on you, their background information. This is only fair. Darn shame that companies are even allowed to make money off of giving out someones background information. who authorizes this crap in the first place?