Practical information & advice

For most jobs (and insurance) you don’t need to disclose your criminal record once it’s ‘spent’. This is because of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Most convictions will become spent at some point. We have a tool that can help work this out ( 

Taken from our top 10 things to know

Read our latest news posts about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act


Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

How does the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act work?

This law is designed to help people with convictions. It doesn’t help everybody (like people given more than 4 years in prison), and in some situations (like certain jobs), it doesn’t apply. Useful links include:

How do I work out if my convictions are spent?

You’ll need to have the details of your conviction and the disposal you received. If you have only one conviction it’s simple to work this our for yourself but if you have more than one, you could try using our Disclosure Calculator. Useful links include:

How did the law change in 2014?

The changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act meant that in many cases the time it takes for a conviction to become spent was reduced. Useful links include:


Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions.

  • The law can be complicated and confusing. When coupled with individuals often struggling to remember precisely what sentence they received, mistakes can be made. Make sure you fully understand your criminal record before you withhold convictions that you think are spent under the ROA. If in doubt, apply for a basic DBS disclosure.

Frequently asked questions

Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get asked about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and thr answers we generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s may be included in the information pages above.

General questions about the Act

Changes were made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The changes came into force on the 10th March 2014.

Please note: The Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 is a separate piece of legislation which is focused on changes to Probation and rehabilitation services.

The changes are retrospective. This means they apply to everybody, irrespective of when they received their caution/conviction. For example, if you were convicted in 2001 and given 3 years in prison that would now be treated as being spent, even though at the time it could never be spent. Further information can be found here.
If a conviction was treated as spent before the 10th March, it stays spent and isn’t affected by the changes. This is important in a small number of cases where the rehabilitation period has lengthened as a result of the changes. It only applies to a small number of cases, particularly where individuals have received multiple summary offences, and where individuals have received Detention and Training Orders. We have kept the old version of the law available on our Disclosure Calculator, for people to use if they think this affects them. You should use the Calculator to work out any convictions that were dealt with before 10th March 2014. Anything that is spent before that point can be discounted. Anything that carries forward should be entered into the Calculator again, but this time using the new rules, to work out when they would become spent.
If you can’t find the information on our long list of sentences/disposals and how long it takes for them to become spent under the ROA then, you should email your enquiry to the Ministry of Justice at
No. If you’re confident that the job isn’t ‘exempt’ from the Act, you are allowed to ‘withhold’ the details of any spent convictions. This means that even if the employer asks you about ‘all’ or ‘spent’ convictions, you don’t have to disclose any that are spent. The employer in question should also be encouraged to change their question to make this clear for future applicants. We follow up on examples like this, so please send us the details and we’ll contact them (we won’t reveal who told us!)
So long as the job/role/service that you’re applying for is covered by the Act, even if you get asked to disclose spent convictions, you don’t have to. For example, if you’re applying for house insurance and get asked “Have you got any spent convictions”, you can withhold details of any spent convictions. In other words, you can ‘legally lie’ when answering the question. Find further information here.
Usually, it will be fairly obvious. For example, all types of insurance are covered by the Act. Most employment positions are too. Those jobs/roles that are not covered by the Act should say so. You might see application forms say that the role is ‘exempt’ from the Act – this will normally mean that the role is not covered by the Act, so the organisation is allowed to know about spent convictions too. These are jobs that do standard or enhanced DBS criminal record checks.
However, not everyone gets it right. Some employers and volunteer bodies might ask about spent convictions when they’re not allowed to, it’s not always obvious whether a particular job or role is covered by the Act or not. We have a detailed section on eligibility, which gives some advice about the types of things to look for, as well as a link to the Government’s guidance on eligibility.
You can do this by getting a ‘basic DBS disclosure’ from the Disclosure and Barring Service. It costs £25 if you go directly to them. Some companies online offer this service for an additional cost – they essentially take your data and then transfer it to the Disclosure and Barring Service, so you’re normally better-off just going directly to the Disclosure and Barring Service.
The Disclosure and Barring Service is responsible for providing basic DBS disclosures under the laws of England & Wales. If you have any technical questions about how they work, how to apply for one etc, you can email the Disclosure and Barring Service at More information about basic DBS disclosures and how they work is available here.
Our remit is specific to England & Wales. There is no longer an independent advice service operating in Scotland (that we know of) since funding for the Apex Scotland helpline was withdrawn. However, Disclosure Scotland have confirmed to us that they’re able to respond to queries. You can email Disclosure Scotland at

Specific technical questions about when convictions become spent

We’ve produced a separate web-page with FAQ’s covering specific situations and when convictions become spent and/or disclosed on basic disclosures.

Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act that we refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.

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Help us with our policy work on this

Read more about the policy work we’re doing on pushing for further reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

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