We’ve produced specific information to help you understand what you might need to know at each stage of your criminal record journey. This page focuses on what you’ll need to know if you’re on probation. It forms part of our series on the seven stages of a criminal record

As this page is new, we’re keen to get your thoughts. Let us know what you think of it and how it could be improved by emailing us at feedback@unlock.org.uk or completing our feedback form.

This section will concentrate on those individuals who are on probation following receipt of a community order or a suspended sentence which requires them to be supervised whilst undertaking some form of rehabilitation activity requirement.

If you’ve just left prison and are being supervised by probation whilst you’re on licence, you may want to have a look at our if you’re leaving prison section.


Criminal record checks

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA), a rehabilitation period is made up of your original sentence, plus an additional fixed period. All the time your conviction is unspent, it will be disclosed on all levels of criminal record checks.

You can use our disclosure calculator to help you work out when your conviction will become spent.

Filtering is a similar concept to the rehabilitation periods under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. However, instead of establishing what is spent and what doesn’t get disclosed on basic DBS checks, filtering establishes what doesn’t get disclosed on standard and enhanced DBS checks.

Any conviction which resulted in a suspended sentence will never be eligible for filtering. Certain types of offences will not be eligible (for example violent and sexual offences) and, if you have more than one conviction, then none of them will be filtered.


If your conviction is unspent then you do not have the legal protection of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and you will always have to disclose your conviction when you’re asked to do so. Using a disclosure letter/statement can help you to decide when and how to disclose your conviction to an employer.

A condition of your supervision may be that you’re not able to undertake a particular type of work without the permission of your probation officer. If your probation officer does not feel that the role you’ve applied for is appropriate, they may refuse you permission. If you believe that the officer’s decision isn’t justified then we would suggest that you ask them to put their reasons in writing which will give you something to appeal against if necessary.

Whether you need to disclose a conviction that you’ve obtained during employment is not always clear but it’s worth checking your contract of employment to find out what your obligations are. There may be situations where you’d have no choice but to disclose, for example if you have a driving job and you lose your driving licence.

As much as possible, your probation officer will try to work around your job but this may not always be possible, perhaps because you’re required to do a course which only runs on certain days at certain times meaning you’ll have to take time off work.


If you’re considering applying for a course at university you will usually be asked to disclose ‘relevant’ unspent convictions. ‘Relevant’ convictions may include for example those relating to violent, sexual or firearms offences etc. If your conviction is unspent but not deemed ‘relevant’ then it’s unlikely that you will need to disclose it. Depending on the nature of the offence, you may be refused entry onto a course.


Whilst your conviction is unspent you will need to disclose it to an insurer if asked. If you chose not to disclose and the insurance company subsequently found out about your undisclosed conviction, they would usually cancel your policy. If you were to make a claim an insurer could carry out a basic Disclosure and Barring Service check to establish whether you have any unspent convictions or had any at the time you took out the policy. Your claim could be refused if you haven’t disclosed.

Unlock has a list of insurance brokers and list of motor insurers who can help people with convictions get insurance.


Although you’re not prevented from travelling abroad whilst on a community order, in practice it may not be possible due to the requirements of your community order, for example a curfew or supervision appointment. You may be able to have these requirements amended (for example by requesting a meeting on a different day) but you would need the permission of your supervising officer.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act only applies in England and Wales. This means that if you’re looking to travel or work overseas you will need to look at the processes that each country has in place to deal with people with convictions. It’s possible that you’ll need to apply for a visa as well as a police certificate. Depending on the nature of your offence, the disclosure of a conviction may result in your visa being refused.


If you wish to change probation area, both the probation area that you wish to leave and the one that you want to move to have to agree. Approval will not automatically be given. If you require a lot of supervision or resources, it’s more likely that your request will be refused.

If your case was reported in the media and/or is available online, then employers or colleagues could find out about your criminal record from the internet. This is often referred to as the ‘google-effect’. Once your conviction is spent, you can apply to have search requests to your name removed. Alternatively, you may wish to consider changing your name to make it more difficult for people to do searches on you.

If you were given a community order, it would normally have an end date, for example 180 hours of unpaid work to be completed in 12 months (end date). The end date given by the court would still apply even if you were to complete the order within 3 months.


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