Today, 18 months after the legislation was passed, changes to spending periods introduced last year by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act come into effect. As a result, thousands of people will find that their criminal records have become spent overnight – meaning they no longer have to be disclosed for most jobs.
These long-awaited reforms follow many years of campaigning and lobbying from Unlock; we’ve long argued that arbitrary spending periods hold people back unnecessarily.
The spending period – otherwise known as a ‘rehabilitation period’ – is a period of time after a sentence has been completed, when a conviction still needs to be disclosed to employers, insurers or housing providers who ask about criminal records. This period after a conviction is a crucial time for someone trying to get their life back on track, and can last long after a sentence has been served.
Today’s changes mean that people sentenced to community orders will be free to move on and stop disclosing their conviction as soon as the order ends. Another major change is that, for the first time, many prison sentences of four or more years will be able to become spent. Being able to access employment is a key factor in rehabilitation, so removing that barrier is a huge step in the right direction for those to whom it will apply.
However, the new rules also mean that – for the first time – the offence type will become a factor in whether a conviction can become spent. This adds a new layer of complexity to an already confusing system. For those with prison sentences of four years or more, there is a list of excluded offences which will still remain unspent for life.
Unlock’s Joint Interim Chief Executive, Justina Forristal, said:
“Thousands of people have woken up this morning knowing that for the first time, they have a chance to be considered by employers for their skills and experience – not their past. Unlock has long argued for a simpler criminal records system and a reduction in spending periods – and against the injustice of lifelong unspent convictions.
“However, the fact that so many sentences will still be exempt demonstrates how much there is still to do in order to have a system that truly supports rehabilitation. Everyone should have the chance to move on positively with their lives and be valued for the contributions they can make.”
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