Skip to main content

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Bringing together links to information, resources, advice, FAQ's and useful links

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) in brief

  • The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act gives people with spent convictions and cautions the right not to have to disclose when applying for most jobs or buying insurance.
  • 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.

How does the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act work?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) enables people with spent convictions the right to withhold details of their criminal record in certain situations. The ROA gives each sentence a ‘rehabilitation period’. During this period, your conviction is considered ‘unspent’ but, once this period has passed and, assuming you don’t receive any further convictions, then it will become ‘spent’.

The ROA doesn’t help everybody (for example people with prison sentences of over 4 years) and in some situations (like certain jobs) it doesn’t apply.

To work out when your caution and/or conviction will become spent you will need to have the details of the caution/conviction including the date and the sentence or disposal that you were given.

Ancillary orders (for example restraining orders or Sexual Harm Prevention Orders) can extend the time it takes for a conviction to become spent. For example, if you were given an indefinite restraining order your conviction will not be spent until you have been back to court to have the order amended or discharged.

All the time your conviction is unspent, you’ll have to tell an employer or insurer about it if they ask you. You will not have any legal protection from the ROA.

Having a spent conviction is a significant stage in your journey through the criminal justice system. It means that for the majority of jobs or when purchasing insurance, you will no longer need to disclose your conviction. You will find that the world of work opens up and you should start to see savings in your car and home insurance premiums. From this point on, in most circumstances you will be dealt with as though you don’t have a criminal record.

The ROA makes it unlawful for an individual to be excluded from any job (other than those which are exempt from the ROA) on the basis of them having a spent conviction.

Frequently asked questions

  • 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


  • So long as the job/role/service that you’re applying for is covered by the ROA, 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 your spent convictions. In other words, you can ‘legally lie’.

  • Usually it will be fairly obvious. For example, all types of insurance are covered by the ROA. 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 ROA – 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 which 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 detailed information on ineligible DBS checks.

  • You can apply for a copy of your basic DBS disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service. It costs £23 and you can apply online directly to the DBS.

We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now