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Spend it wisely – how changes to Rehabilitation of Offenders rules could affect you

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 10 March 2014
  2. Cars and Motoring
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A man being held back by a ball and chain (metaphor)

Today sees changes to the law over spent convictions and the rehabilitation of offenders, as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.

Most of the measures introduced under LASPO, including sweeping cuts to legal aid, were introduced in 2012/2013. The rehabilitation of offenders changes were delayed until the groundwork for their implementation could be laid – that day has finally come. Let's take a look at the changes to spent convictions.

What are spent convictions?

If you have a conviction for a crime, the offence will appear on your criminal record. You may also be required to mention this conviction when applying for a job or insurance, or in other circumstances.

However, under rules introduced in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, people convicted of less serious crimes can be "rehabilitated" of their conviction, meaning that they will no longer need to disclose it when applying for a job, insurance, or when engaged in civil proceedings.

There are exceptions to this rule – for example, if you are applying for a job to work with children, you will always need to disclose any convictions, regardless of whether they are spent or not.

A conviction will automatically become spent once you have completed a Rehabilitation Period – the length of this period will depend on your sentence, as well as whether or not you were aged 18 or over at the time of your conviction.

Spent convictions under new LASPO rules

The changes mean that more people will be able to spend their convictions. From now on, any prison sentences up to and including four years in length can be spent – this is an increase on the two-and-a-half limit that was previously in place.

The rehabilitation periods of many types of convictions have also been tweaked, with many of them being reduced.

Sentence (over 18 when convicted) Previous Rehabilitation Period New Rehabilitation Period
Prison sentences above 2 & a half years to 4 years Could not be spent 7 years
Prison sentences above 6 months up to 2 & a half years 10 years 4 years
Prison sentences of 6 months or less 7 years 2 years
Fines 5 years 1 year
Community orders 5 years 1 year
Absolute discharge 6 months Immediately

The periods have also been adjusted for people who were under 18 when convicted – a more complete overview can be seen in our Rehabilitation of Offenders Act section.

Beginning of the rehabilitation period

Despite the reduction of rehabilitation periods, not all convictions will be spent earlier. Previously, a rehabilitation period would begin at the beginning of the sentence.

However, the rehabilitation period will now begin at the end of your sentence, so if you were jailed for six months, your conviction would not become spent until two years after the end of the sentence, or two-and-a-half years from the beginning of the sentence.

Note that the rehabilitation period will begin at the end of the sentence, rather than when you are released from prison – if you are released early on parole, your rehabilitation period will not begin any earlier.

Border Force exceptions

Under the LASPO changes, the UK Border Force no longer has to adhere to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. This means that they can factor information about spent convictions into decisions about an individual's immigration or nationality, such as whether to grant an individual citizenship or a visa to work or study in the UK.

Further Information

Unlock, an independent charity for people with convictions, offers advice and help on the rehabilitation of offenders.

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