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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


Add Comment
  1. I was convicted of drink driving in 2011 and was banned for 12 months. My employers are applying for a new enhanced dbs – will it show up?

  2. I was convicted for 4 accounts of fraud and received community service in June 2017 will that stop me from working with kids?

    1. Hi Heidi

      Having convictions for fraud wouldn’t automatically bar you from working with children. However, as you may be aware, most jobs which involve working with children will require you to have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and your fraud convictions will be disclosed on this level of check until June 2028. Some employers in the childcare sector can be quite risk averse when recruiting people with a criminal record and the key to success is often down to how well somebody discloses their criminal record. You might find it useful to have a look at the information on our website on disclosing a criminal record to an employer –

      Some people find it helpful to write a self-disclosure statement which helps them to plan how they are going to disclose and you can find some examples at Our helpline team are always happy to provide feedback on draft disclosure letters.

      Best wishes


    2. I was given community service during the pandemic but due to the pandemic there was no dates available and they cut the number of people attending the work days, I was seeing a probation officer and asked to do thing to cut down my time like courses and other things they had to offer but to no avail,

      I had plans to move to Spain for two years were I had work lined up I told the probation officer this and said I want to get this resolved ASAP.

      I was charged with possession of a offensive weapon (whitch I uses for work to open boxes and forgor it was in .y pocket) and a new stalking law that was made up that year and I was the 10 person to be wrongful convicted of. I was court having a cigarette on the corner of my road where my ex lives about 7 doors in from the other corner. and she even applied to the police to no press charges I digress. But wanted to give an idea of the charges.

      I am now coming back to England with the committee service outstanding. I’s there a time period were if I make no contact with police and don’t do anything or get spotted/spoken to my police will this will be wipe off. And im assuming this will show in a dbs and I’d so how badly

  3. Hi if I apply for a job in the nhs and tell them about my conviction that is now spent and happened nine years ago for petty theft , could they go against this? Am I better off being truthful about it?

  4. Hi, I recently got arrested for testing positive for THC while driving, I am currently on bail for the next 3 months until the blood test results come back when I will most likely then go to court. I’m currently applying for new jobs & when it asks do I have any unspent convictions, I’m not sure if what I’m going through would include that? Or only once I am actually charged would I have to mention it?

    1. Hi L

      As you are currently on bail and haven’t been to court you don’t have a conviction and therefore nothing to disclose to a future employer. If you were success at interview and your employer were to carry out a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, the certificate would come back blank.

      If you are convicted in court then depending on the sentence or disposal you receive, this would need to be disclosed to an employer for a set period of time. If you are already in employment when you receive a conviction then you’d need to check your contact of employment to establish whether your employer expects you to disclose convictions which are received during the course of your employment (not all employers ask this).

      I hope this is helpful.

      Best wishes


  5. I was convicted of threats to kill and sentenced to 5 years in prison is this a spent or unspent conviction and I work as a chef will I need to tell my future employers about this offence

    1. Hi Aaron

      Currently any conviction which results in a prison sentence of over 4 years can never be spent. As your conviction is unspent, you would need to disclose it to an employer if they asked and it would appear on any Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check that an employer carried out.

      You’ll find lots of useful information on the website about disclosing a conviction, including examples of self-disclosure statements –

      Remember – only disclose if you’re asked. You don’t have to volunteer the information.

      Best wishes


  6. Hi, I was convicted to pay and paid in June 2023 a criminal fine as the owner of an unused vehicle for which I didn’t know I have to pay a road tax. I want to apply for an entry level civil servant job. Would this be filed in my criminal record and showed in the criminal record check?

    1. Hi Iri

      If you were taken to court for not having any road tax then you’d need to check whether this has been recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC). You can do this by requesting a copy of your police record (often referred to as a Subject Access Request) from the ACRO Criminal Records Office – If it has been recorded then it would become spent in June 2024 and until then, would need to be disclosed to an employer if asked and would appear on a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.

      Best wishes


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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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