Is it spent now? A brief guide to changes to the ROA

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Aim of this information

This guide explains changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) which the Government made through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

Why is this important

Once your criminal record becomes spent, you will not need to disclose it for the majority of jobs, when purchasing insurance or renting a house etc. The changes to the ROA reduced the rehabilitation periods for the majority of sentences/disposals and knowing whether your caution/conviction is spent will reduce the chances of disclosing something which, legally, you have no need to do.

Introduction

The ROA has been reformed as a result of changes in the law in 2012. These came into force on the 10th March 2014.

The changes are ‘retrospective’, which means they apply to convictions received before the 10th March 2014, and in most cases the rehabilitation periods are reduced. Our detailed guidance is available here.

We are keeping this page live on our site so that people can continue to compare the old and new law, although we recommend you visit our information section on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, where you will find a number of links relating to how the law now works.

What is the ROA?

The ROA is a law intended to improve the chances of people with convictions being fully rehabilitated into society by removing some of the barriers that they face.

Under the ROA, after a specific period of time has passed (which varies according to the sentence or disposal received), cautions and convictions are regarded as ‘spent’. Once a caution or conviction becomes spent, an individual is treated as rehabilitated with regards to that offence, and they don’t have to declare it for most purposes, for example when applying for employment or insurance.

What is changing and when?

The changes come into force on the 10th March 2014.

An updated version of our disclosurecalculator (which helps people to calculate when their convictions become spent), will be available before the ROA changes are commenced.

The reforms apply to England & Wales only.

All changes will be retrospective. This means those convicted before the changes come into force will be affected by the changes, although no convictions which are already spent will become unspent under the new rules.

Main changes

  1. Increasing the length of maximum sentence capable of becoming spent
  2. Starting the rehabilitation period from the end of the community or custodial sentence
  3. Reducing most rehabilitation periods
  4. Increasing some rehabilitation periods
  5. Exempting immigration and nationality decisions by the UK Border Agency from the Act 

1. Increasing the maximum sentence capable of becoming spent

The changes extend the scope of the ROA so that prison sentences of up to and including four years in length can become spent. Currently, the maximum sentence that can become spent is a 30 month prison sentence.

2. Starting the rehabilitation period from the end of the sentence

Currently, rehabilitation periods begin from the date of conviction. For the most minor sentences, (e.g. cautions, reprimands, fines) this will remain the case. However, for convictions resulting in a community sentence or custodial sentence, the rehabilitation period (or ‘buffer’ period) will start from the end of the entire sentence (not at the point of release from prison).

For example; a two year adult prison sentence previously had a rehabilitation period of ten years from conviction. This will now have a four year period starting at the end of the two year sentence. Therefore, in effect, the rehabilitation period has reduced from ten to six years from conviction.

3. Reducing most rehabilitation periods

The rehabilitation periods for the majority of sentences and out of court disposals have been reduced for adults and young people. Examples include: –

  • Prison sentences up to and including 6 months, the conviction will become spent 2 years after the end of the sentence;
  • Prison sentences of over 6 months and up to and including 30 months, the conviction will become spent until 4 years after the end of the sentence;
  • Prison sentences of over 30 months and up to and including 4 years, the conviction will become spent 7 years after the end of the sentence;
  • Community order, the conviction will become spent 1 year after the end of the order;
  • Fines, the conviction will become spent 1 year from the point of imposition; and
  • An absolute discharge will become spent immediately.

A full list of the current and revised rehabilitation periods is provided later on in this guide.

4. Increasing some rehabilitation periods

There are three situations where the changes will result in longer rehabilitation periods. These may affect people with existing convictions, although if the conviction became spent before the changes are commenced, it cannot become unspent again.

Further convictions

Currently, the rehabilitation periods for further convictions for summary offences run separately from other unspent convictions. However, further triable either-way and indictable offences ‘drag through’ existing unspent convictions, extending their rehabilitation period until the last one is spent. Following the changes, all offences will create this ‘drag through’ effect, including summary.

Youth Rehabilitation Orders (YROs)

Currently, these become spent after one year or when the order ceases to be in force (whichever is later). Under the changes, they always become spent 6 months from when the order ceases to be in force. Therefore, orders of longer than 6 months will have an additional 6 months added to their rehabilitation period. For example: –

  • 3 month YRO: now 12 months, will be 9 months following the changes;
  • 1 year YRO: now 12 months, will be 18 months following the changes; and
  • 3 year YRO: now 36 months, will be 42 months following the changes.

Detention and Training Orders (DTOs) for 12 to 14 year olds

These can be a maximum of 24 months. Currently these become spent one year after the order ceases to have effect. Under the changes, DTOs are being aligned with other custodial sentences. DTOs of less than 6 months will become spent 18 months after the end of the sentence and DTOs of over 6 months it will become spent 2 years after the end of the sentence. For example: –

  • 3 month DTO: now 15 months, will be 21 months following the changes;
  • 6 month DTO: now 18 months, will be 24 months following the changes;
  • 18 month DTO: now 2 ½ years, will be 3 ½ years following the changes; and
  • 2 year DTO: now 3 years, will be 4 years following the changes.

5. Exempting immigration and nationality decisions from the Act

The clause relating to UKBA will exempt them entirely from the operation of the ROA so that they can rely on all conviction information when making immigration and nationality decisions.

UKBA currently use only information relating to an applicant’s unspent convictions in their immigration and nationality decision-making processes. These reforms exempt UKBA from the ROA enabling them to operate wholly outside the Act and take into account information relating to an applicant’s spent and unspent convictions. The following groups of individuals subject to an immigration or nationality decision may therefore be affected:

  1. Those seeking to enter the UK (for example as a student or to work)
  2. Those seeking to remain the in the UK (extending or switching their current leave)
  3. Those seeking British citizenship
  4. Individuals being considered for deportation
  5. Individuals whose leave may be revoked

What hasn’t changed?

The rehabilitation periods will still be linked to the disposal/sentence given rather than the type of offence committed, reflecting the seriousness of the specific offence committed by an individual.

There is no change to the activities and positions which are exempt from the ROA (as defined in the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975). There are no changes to the Exceptions Order and these positions will continue to involve a standard or enhanced criminal records disclosure, which reveal all convictions, unspent or spent.

The scope of the most common exception to the ROA (regulated activity) has been refined. However, in practice it doesn’t limit an employer from carrying out enhanced checks on what was previously regarded as regulated activity, as the relevant provisions in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 remain on the statute book.

Other issues

There are still questions around how motoring offences, particularly endorsements, will be affected by these changes. The Government have said these will be clarified before the changes come into force.

There are also a number of broader changes being made to the disclosure regime, which are covered elsewhere on the Hub.

Rehabilitation Periods – Adults

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Rehabilitation Periods – Under 18

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Notes about the tables

If a sentence/disposal is not is covered in the table above, under the changes it has no rehabilitation period and becomes spent immediately (unless it is attached to another sentence/disposal which does have a rehabilitation period).

  1. The term ‘prison’ includes suspended prison sentences, youth custody, detention in a young offender institution or corrective training.
  2. From the day on which the sentence (including any licence period) is completed.
  3. From the day on which the sentence (including any licence period) is completed.
  4. From the day on which the sentence (including any licence period) is completed.
  5. Passed under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 or under section 206 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975
  6. Starting from the date of conviction relating to the sentence.
  7. Starting from the day on which the sentence is completed.
  8. From the date of conviction.
  9. The date on which the payment is made in full.
  10. From the end of the order. This period starts from the last day of when the order given by the court has effect. Where no such date is provided, the rehabilitation period for the order is 2 years, starting from the date of conviction.
  11. From the last day on which the order is to have effect.
  12. The day provided for by or under the order as the last day on which the order has effect.
  13. Under the Mental Health Act 1983.
  14. Spent as soon as issued.

Frequently asked questions about the ROA

For a range of frequently asked questions, click here.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act can be found here
  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
  • John

    Hi I have a conviction for Battery/ common assault way back in 2006.
    Q1. Is this now spent ?
    Q2. Will this be disclosed on a Basic CRB / Disclosure Scotland check.
    As I don’t want it jeapordising my career. Your help support & clarification would be appreciated
    Regards

  • Alanis

    Please help, with the new rules, If I have two convictions aged 18 and under do I still have to declare them on job applications? I recieved a 3 year probation with condition of residence and a 12 month conditional discharge and £50 fine.

  • daddy hope

    I was given 100 hours community service in August 2003 and I have since trained as a teacher and would like to know if I have to disclose this in my application? Will I be able to get a job at all? …

  • Peterpeacock1

    Hi I was remanded into custody on the 25 May 2004 and pleaded guilty in August that year and was sentenced in February 2005, I received 4 years and was released on 29 January 2007, I had a further 16 mts on licence which I completed and hence came to end of my 4 year prison term on May 29 2008 I can’t remember my sentencing date and I can’t remember wen plead guilty but deffo know I ft remanded on 29 jam 2004 and my entire sent r including licence ended May 2008, due to new rules my conviction should be spent 7 years once licence was completed. Where I kneed help is does the 7 years buffer period start from date I put utility plea in? Or date I was sentenced or when I completed entire sentence including licence, also bare in mind the 7 years does not begin until licence complete, I’m hoping they start it from end of sentence and not conviction as I spent nine months on remand and if it’s taken from conviction it add nine months on I rang all people I know agency’s to track dates but as I’ve been out of trouble for 11 years

  • David Ore

    i have various vilont offences the last being 1990 gbh i want to join an airgun club do i have to disclose this club also does live ammo shooting but i only want to use air weapons

  • Stuart Gandolphinni O’dell

    The firearms ban you receive when you are released from prison on a sentence of over 3 years is life.