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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill (PCSC) – What does it mean for you?

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill (PCSC) received royal assent at the end of April 2022, and included changes to spending periods which took effect on 28 October 2023.

The PCSC Act includes some major new government policies relating to crime and justice in England and Wales; some more controversial than others.

The government stated that it’s their intention to introduce tougher sentencing for the ‘worst offenders’ and end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes.

However, they also committed to ensuring that the system is agile enough to give individuals a fair start on their road to rehabilitation which means reducing the time it takes for some sentences/disposals to become spent.

This is something Unlock has been campaigning for over many years and we know the changes will mean that thousands of people each year will benefit from seeing their convictions become spent much sooner. Many will see their chances of getting into paid employment increase and insurance premiums reduced.

The new rehabilitation periods

The table below sets out the new rehabilitation periods.

SentenceAdultsUnder 18’s
(Adult) Community OrderEnd of the orderN/A
Youth Rehabilitation OrderN/AEnd of the order
Prison sentence of 1 year or lessSentence + 1 yearSentence + 6 months
Prison sentence of more than 1 year and up to 4 yearsSentence + 4 yearsSentence + 2 years
Prison sentence of more than 4 years **Sentence + 7 yearsSentence + 3.5 years

** excludes serious sexual, violent or terrorist offences.

The changes reduce the rehabilitation periods for the majority of sentences/disposals. But, one of the biggest changes is allowing some convictions which resulted in a prison sentence of over four years to become spent.

For the very first time, the nature of the offence will be a factor in determining whether a conviction can become spent. The government refers to sentences of over four years which will never be spent as those which relate to “serious violent, sexual and terrorist offences” but the full list of offences can be found here.

An example

Tony was convicted of supplying and offering to supply a controlled drug in January 2016. He received a five-year prison sentence.

Under the previous rules, Tony’s conviction would never be spent. It would always appear on a basic DBS certificate, and he would always need to disclose it when applying for jobs or when taking out an insurance policy.

After the PCSC changes, Tony’s conviction will become spent in January 2028 (five-year sentence + seven years).

How will multiple convictions be treated?

For the purposes of deciding whether an offence is excluded from becoming spent, consecutive and concurrent sentences will be treated separately.


Lucy was convicted of robbery and criminal damage in May 2009. She received a four-year prison sentence for the robbery and a six-month sentence for the criminal damage to run consecutively. This gives a total sentence of 4 years and 6 months.

Under the previous legislation Lucy’s conviction would never be spent and would always need to be disclosed when applying for jobs. It would always appear on her basic DBS certificate.

After PCSC, Lucy’s sentences will be treated separately and will both become spent on 28 October 2023 as on their own, neither prison sentence was over four years.

More information



Add Comment
  1. This reform is long overdue and will be welcomed by many who incurred minor convictions in their early years which have blighted their career opportunities for decades.
    It is understandable that those serious crimes against individuals resulting in the victims experiencing a life-long sentence of trauma and pain should never by removed from the record.
    Victims of sexual abuse in childhood frequently suffer from mental disorders as a consequence, particularly when their attacker refuses to apologise and receives only a token sentence of 2 years. The criminal justice system fails many such victims, even suggesting that they have ‘invited’ the abuse. They deserve our support just as much as those who are labelled ‘criminals’ need our understanding and society’s willingness to ‘forgive and forget’.

  2. Will these changes be applied retroactively where the consequence would become an offence becoming unspent which had previously been spent?

    1. Hi Nick

      These changes will be applied retrospectively and rehabilitation periods for anybody with a criminal record will be based on the time periods set out in the PCSC. Once a conviction is spent it remains spent; it wouldn’t become unspent by a further conviction. However, if an individual reoffends during the rehabilitation period of a previous conviction, then neither will become spent until the one with the longest rehabilitation period is spent.


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