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’ve just received a conviction. 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.

The culmination of a police investigation will, for some people, result in them receiving a conviction. The majority of people who are convicted in court do not receive prison sentences but their lives will still be affected to some extent as a result of their conviction.


Criminal record checks

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA), the rehabilitation period for disposals given in court is made up of the 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 if and 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. Some offences are not eligible for filtering (for example violent and sexual offences) and, if you have more than one conviction then none of them would 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 it 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.

Whether you need to disclose a conviction that you’ve obtained during employment is not always clear but it’s worth checking your contact 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.

If your employer becomes aware of your conviction, it’s likely that they could begin disciplinary proceedings which may result in your being dismissed.

Unless you have a conviction which bars or disqualifies you from working with children or vulnerable adults then a conviction shouldn’t stop you from working in whatever field you chose to work in. The decision to employ you will be made solely by the employer who should deal with every application on a case by case basis. However, there are employers who have polices stating that they will not employ anyone with unspent convictions (for example DHL) or with convictions for certain types of offence.

The key to successfully securing employment will often be the way in which you disclose your conviction.

Although it’s likely to be slightly harder to get a job with a criminal record than without, it’s not impossible. There are employers who, either as a result of their recruitment process or company ethics, have a positive attitude towards people with convictions and we’ve compiled a list of some of these friendly employers.


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.

If you’re studying for a subject which would have necessitated disclosing your conviction at the application stage, then it’s likely that you’ll need to disclose it to the university if you receive a conviction after you’ve started university. This is especially so if your course involves any kind of work placement and your conviction would make it difficult to secure a placement. The university may remove you from the course if they believe that your conviction would prevent you from completing it or means that you wouldn’t be able to work in your chosen field after qualifying.


Many insurance companies will only ask you to disclose changes in your circumstances (for example a conviction) at the time your policy comes up for renewal, however it’s always best to check your insurance documentation.

It’s likely that when you do disclose your conviction (irrespective of the nature of the offence) your current insurer may no longer be able to insure you as they may not have a suitable policy they can sell you. Until your conviction becomes spent, you may need to use specialist insurance brokers or motor insurers that do not take criminal convictions into account (these are useful if you have a non-motoring convictions).

All the time your conviction is unspent you will need to disclose it to an insurer if asked. If the insurance company were to find out about your conviction they would usually cancel your policy. If you make a claim an insurer can carry out a basic DBS check to establish whether you have any unspent convictions or had any at the time of taking out the policy. This is more likely to happen if the claim you are making is for a large amount of money. Your claim could be refused if you haven’t disclosed.

Unlock has a list of insurance brokers and list of motor insurers who may be able to help you get insurance.


The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act only applies to 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 the offence, the disclosure of a conviction may result in your visa being 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.

The onus is on the lender to ask about convictions when you are applying for a mortgage although, in our experience, most mortgage company’s do ask. Each lender will have their own lending criteria and the majority will deal with the disclosure of an unspent conviction on a case by case basis.

The length of time you’re on the Register will depend on the sentence that you received. Within 3 days of your conviction (and annually thereafter) you will need to visit the police station to register and provide them with your name, date of birth, national insurance number, any foreign travel plans, bank and passport details.

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence (even if the offence was nothing to do with your own child), it’s possible that a social worker from children’s services will wish to carry out a risk assessment on you which may involve speaking to different members of your family. The social worker may decide that for a set period of time you will have no unsupervised access to your children.

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