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Differences between unspent and spent convictions

Aim of this information

This information sets out the differences between spent and unspent convictions.

Why is this important

It’s really important to know what the differences are between unspent and spent convictions. Specifically, so you are clear about what you legally need to disclose to employers, insurers and housing providers for example.


Whether a criminal record is unspent or spent depends on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The first thing you need to do is find out when your record is spent.

This page is also helpful in understanding the results you’ve received from theCalculator.

Convictions that are unspent

  • Unspent convictions will come back on all levels of criminal record check (basic, standard and enhanced).
  • If asked by an employer, you have to disclose convictions that are unspent. Many employers take on people with unspent convictions, but some might have policies or practices that mean you are refused employment.
  • If asked, you will have to disclose unspent convictions them when applying for products and services, such as insurance, a mortgage or renting a house.
  • You could be prosecuted if you fail to disclose them when asked.

Convictions that are spent

  • Spent convictions and cautions will not come back on a basic criminal record check.
  • For most jobs, you do not need to disclose spent convictions and cautions to an employer. These would be jobs that are covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and would only involve a basic check.
  • Some jobs and roles might involve a standard or enhanced criminal record check and these checks will normally show spent convictions and cautions so you will need to disclose these if the organisation is doing one of these checks.
  • Some spent cautions and convictions are removed from standard or enhanced checks if they meet a set of technical rules known as filtering. If your caution or conviction is now filtered, it will not show up on these checks and you do not need to disclose it when applying for any role that involves that level of check.
  • Most spent convictions and cautions will still appear on standard or enhanced checks, and employers that do these checks can use what comes back on the check and take it into account when making a recruiting decision if they believe it’s relevant to the role.
  • Spent convictions and cautions do not need to be disclosed when buying home or car insurance.
  • You might need to disclose spent convictions or caution when travelling or working outside of England and Wales
  • Spent convictions and cautions will stay on your police record – they are not deleted.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information regarding this can be found at Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
  3. Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on this issue.

Get involved

Help us to add value on this information. You can:-

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum


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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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