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Finally, after 40 years, the laws on disclosing criminal records are changing for the better on the 10th March 2014

We’re delighted that, having campaigned for many years, the 10th March 2014 will finally see reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 come into force. This means that many people will find that their conviction becomes ‘spent’ a lot sooner than it did previously. It only applies in England and Wales, but the changes are ‘retrospective’, which means it applies to people convicted before the March changes.

So, if you were sentenced in June 2013 to 1 year in prison, this would previously have taken 10 years to become ‘spent’. Under the changes, this will reduce to 4 years from the end of the full sentence (so June 2018). We continue to campaign for a system for people sentenced to over 4 years, but for many people it’s much better than what it was.

In practical terms, a ‘basic disclosure’ (which only reveals unspent convictions) will be available from Disclosure Scotland from the 10th March, and this will reflect the changes to the law in England and Wales. If your convictions are now spent, this should come back blank.

Sentences with a buffer period (sentence length includes time spent on licence)



Time it takes to become spent
Adult (18+) at conviction/disposalYoung person (U18) at conviction/disposal
(including suspended prison sentences)
Over 4 years or a public protection sentenceNever spentNever spent
More than 30 months and less than (or equal to) 4 yearsSentence + 7 yearsSentence + 3 ½ years
More than 6 months and less than (or equal to) 30 monthsSentence + 4 yearsSentence + 2 years
Less than (or equal to) 6 monthsSentence + 2 yearsSentence + 18 months
Community Order /
Youth Rehabilitation Order
Length of the order
+ 1 year
Length of the order
+ 6 months

What happens once it’s spent? Basically, it means you don’t have to disclose for most jobs, and insurance, and won’t be disclosed on a basic check. It doesn’t get deleted, and for jobs that involve standard or enhanced criminal record checks, it will continue to get disclosed in most cases.

We’re publishing a simple guide on the changes (once it’s ready, we can provide individual copies on request, and it’ll be available to download from our website). In the meantime, we have a brief guide on the changes.

We also know that staff and practitioners that provide employment support and careers advice will want to know more detail about the changes, so we’re holding ‘masterclasses’ on the changes. Details of these can be found here, or you contact us for further information.

There will be more information available in the coming weeks – we’ve set up a dedicated page on our Hub where we’ll bring together all of the latest developments.


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

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