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Unlock Category: 1. Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

‘How long do I have to disclose my criminal record for?’ – A detailed guide to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974


Enforced subject access


‘Enforced subject access’ (under section 184 of the Data Protection Act 2018) prevents employers from requiring people to use their subject access rights under the DPA to provide certain records, such as police records, as a condition of employment. It also prevents contracts from requiring certain records as a condition for providing or receiving a service, such as housing or insurance. Requiring people to provide these records will become a criminal offence, punishable by a fine. In England and Wales the maximum financial penalty on summary conviction in the magistrates’ court is £5,000 (soon to be unlimited). On indictment in the Crown Court the fine can be unlimited.

We’ve long argued that section 184 needs to be brought into force, but this wasn’t ever possible until reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 were brought in on the 10th March 2014. Section 184 came into force on the 10th March 2015.

For people with convictions, this is an important development. Although it doesn’t prevent employers and others from getting access to criminal records through legitimate means, what section 56 does do is prevent the use of significant amounts of sensitive personal data that can be disclosed as part of a subject access request.

In the past, we’ve come across examples where employers, insurers, education providers and housing providers have required people provide copies of their police record by applying to the police and paying £10 for a subject access request. This type of request discloses all information held on the Police National Computer, including convictions and cautions that are spent, as well as allegations or other ‘local police information’.

The introduction of section 184 will enable a clearer message to be given to any organisation that is found to be undertaking this type of practice. The legislation only allows requirements of this type where the record is required by law or is justified in the public interest.

Frequently asked questions

No. It means that an employer can’t make you do a ‘subject access request’ under the Data Protection Act to get a copy of your police record.

Depending on the job, an employer will still be able (if they wish) to require you to undergo a basic, standard or enhanced criminal record check.

What you should do will depend on the reason for the request. For example, if it’s for a job that would be eligible for a standard or enhanced check, then you might advise them of that. If not, then it might be that they’re only allowed to ask you to do a basic disclosure. Ultimately, you should be able to refuse to do it. Use the guidance above to help you. Either way, if you have evidence of them requiring you to do an enforced subject access, send us the details.

This is the phrase that is used to describe the process of obtaining a copy of the records that organisations hold on you. In this context, it’s mainly referring to you obtaining a copy of your police record.

Yes. This means that insurers will no longer require you to provide a copy of your police record. Instead, if they do require any form of official record of unspent convictions, they may ask you to consent to a basic disclosure.

Yes. It applies to any individual or organisation that ‘requires’ you to do a subject access request. For example, housing associations will no longer be able to require you to obtain a copy of your police record.

Yes. In guidance to schools it’s been made clear that they cannot require individuals to obtain police records of either themselves or those that live or work in the same household as them.

Yes. Under the 2003 Licensing Act Guidance (4.6) Regulations, in order to substantiate whether or not an applicant has a conviction for an unspent relevant offence, a licensing authority can, for the granting of a personal licence request a criminal conviction certificate, a criminal record certificate (both of these are basic DBS checks), or the results of a subject access search of the Police National Computer by the National Identification Service to the licensing authority. This means that whilst an enforced subject access request is now illegal, it can be requested for the granting of a personal licence. We would always recommend that when applying for a personal licence, you provide a basic DBS check rather than a SAR which would disclose the details of all convictions rather than just those which are unspent.

Other useful resources

ICO guidance on enforced subject access requests

Motoring convictions and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Help us – As part of our policy work we’re working on stopping the sharing of spent motoring convictions by the DVLA

Why is this important?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies to a number of areas of life, but particularly employment and insurance.

Motoring convictions are treated slightly strangely under the ROA, when compared with other types of offences.

Motoring endorsements

Sadly, the way that endorsements are treated under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has not been changed by the 2014 changes. This was in large part because of resistance by the insurance industry. Unfortunately, the knock-on effect of this is that it means that they also remain unspent for other purposes, such as when applying for employment. This is an area that we are actively working on, and are keen to gather evidence of where this is having a disproportionate impact for people.

The result is that an endorsement imposed by a court for a road traffic offence is treated as a sentence under the ROA and becomes spent after 5 years (or two and half years where you are under 18).

Every endorsement has a minimum 5 year rehabilitation period. This is even the case for endorsements that only remain on your driving licence for 4 years. The length of the endorsement is irrelevant. Endorsements that remain on a licence for 11 years do not stop the conviction relating to the offence from becoming spent earlier, subject to the other elements of the sentence.

This also applies to endorsements issued by way of Fixed Penalty Notice for a road traffic offence listed in Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (see below for more information).

There remains a lot of confusion about the way that motoring convictions are being dealt with under the ROA, particularly given the way that motoring offences are recorded (or not) on the Police National Computer, and what this means in practice for individuals in terms of applying for employment and insurance. We are working on some specific guidance on this, so if you have any information or experiences that you think would help with this guidance, please send them to

Penalty points

Penalty points imposed by a court become spent when they cease to have effect. Under road traffic legislation, penalty points may be taken into account for ‘totting up’ purposes for three years, hence they have a three year rehabilitation period.

However, it is our understanding that penalty points are only ever issued alongside an endorsement, and so the 5 year period for the endorsement will normally be more relevant.

Driving disqualifications

The rehabilitation period for a driving disqualification is the length of the disqualification. If you are disqualified from driving and at the same time receive another penalty, the longer of the two rehabilitation periods applies.

Driving disqualifications will normally come with an endorsement, so the 5 year period for the endorsement will be applied, unless the period of the disqualification was longer than 5 years, in which case that period will be used to determine the spent date.

If you are banned from driving for seven years and also fined and receive an endorsement on your licence, although the fine becomes spent after 1 year, and the endorsement is spent after 5 years, the rehabilitation period for the conviction would be 7 years.

Motoring fines

A fine on its own under the ROA is 1 year, but for motoring offences dealt with by way of a court imposed conviction, it will normally come along with an endorsement, which has a 5 year rehabilitation period.

Multiple motoring disposals

Where the court imposes more than one sentence or penalty for the offence then the longest rehabilitation period determines when the conviction may become spent.

If you go to court and get convicted with a sentence of a fine, an endorsement, penalty points and a 1 year driving disqualification, the conviction will become spent after 5 years because the endorsement carries the longest period.

Fixed penalty notices for road traffic offences

A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) can be used to deal with minor road traffic offences, but it is not a criminal conviction or a caution.

However, if you are given an FPN for a road traffic offence in Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, and your licence is endorsed, then (in line with s. 58 of that Act) the endorsement is treated as having been given by a court following conviction of the offence and is subject to a 5 year rehabilitation period, from the date the FPN was issued.

A full list of the offences covered by this are available here. Examples include:

  1. Exceeding the speed limit
  2. Failing to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test
  3. Failing to stop motor vehicle when required by constable
  4. Refusing to give, or giving false, name and address in cases of reckless, careless or inconsiderate driving or cycling

Where section 58 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act does not apply, an FPN is not a conviction. FPN’s do not appear on basic disclosure certificates.

Differences between endorsable and non-endorsable offences

Regardless of whether an offence was dealt with by FPN or whether it went to court, it is important to know whether the offence was an ‘endorseable’ or ‘non-endorsable’ offence, as this will determine whether your licence was endorsed and therefore whether the offence is subject to the 5 year rehabilitation period for endorsements.

We are planning to produce specific guidance on this shortly. In the meantime, the easiest way to find out if you received an endorsement on your licence is by checking with the DVLA. You can contact the DVLA by calling 0300 790 6801 or writing to Drivers Customer Services, Correspondence Team, DVLA, Swansea, SA6 7JL.

Differences between spent periods and licence periods

The length of time that motoring offences stay on your licence is governed by road traffic legislation. This is entirely separate to the time it takes for it to become spent under the ROA. It is perfectly possible for a motoring conviction to become spent under the ROA, but still be on your licence.

If you are fined for drink-driving and have your licence endorsed and receive 3 penalty points, the rehabilitation period would be five years (because of the endorsement), although it will stay on your driving licence for 11 years.

There remains some confusion around motoring offences, the ways in which they link with your criminal record, and the reasons for the DVLA retaining data once it is spent under the ROA. For further information about DVLA records see here..

FAQ’s on ROA and Basic DBS disclosures

This page sits within our information section on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. This is a specific page with FAQ’s covering specific situations and when convictions become spent and/or disclosed on basic DBS disclosures.

It depends on the disposal/sentence.

Sentences with a buffer period (i.e. prison sentences, suspended sentences and community orders) are made up of the original sentence, plus an additional fixed period. For these, you normally start from the date the sentence started.

For sentences with no buffer period (i.e. a fine) the rehabilitation period is either the length of the order, or a fixed period starting from the date of conviction.

No. The buffer period starts from the end of the full sentence. This includes time spent on licence. For example, if you were sentenced to 12 months in June 2013, and we’re released in December 2013, the buffer period wouldn’t start until June 2014, which is the end of the full 12 month sentence.

The buffer period starts on the sentence end date of the custodial sentence, which takes into account any time spent on remand. For example, if you were held on remand in May 2013 for one month, and then sentenced in June 2013 and given a 6 month sentence with remand having been taken into account, the end of the full sentence would be November 2013, which is when the buffer period would apply from.

Extended sentences for public protection are not covered by the Act, and so they cannot become spent.

If you get a further conviction while an earlier one is unspent, neither of them will become spent until the longest of them does. This is covered in more detail in our detailed guide.

No. The earlier sentence of more than 4 years would drag through any previously unspent convictions, and these would never become spent as a result. However, any further convictions after the one of more than 4 years can become spent on their own. For example, if you were sentenced to 5 years in prison in June 1995, this would never become spent. If you were later given a community order in June 2004, this could become spent on its own.

Suspended prison sentences are treated as prison sentences under the Act. It is the length of sentence that is used, not how long it was suspended for.

The rehabilitation period is governed by the custodial sentence, not the period of suspension or supervision. So, a six month custodial sentence suspended for two years has the same rehabilitation period as that for an immediate custodial sentence of six months. The length of the supervision order, or how long it was suspended was, is irrelevant

The provisions in the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2013 provide for a period of supervision post-sentence. This is to make sure that all individuals sentenced to imprisonment have at least 12 months on supervision on release. Individuals receiving sentences of two years or more will not be subject to post-sentence supervision because they will spend 12 months on licence subject to conditions following automatic release at the half-way point of the sentence.

Under the 2013 Act, where an individual receives a custodial sentence of less than two years, they will serve the second half of the sentence on licence and then there will be a period of post-sentence supervision to make sure that the overall period of supervision in the community is 12 months. For example, under these provisions an individual given a six month sentence may serve three months in prison and three months on licence with a further period of nine months on post-sentence supervision – the period of licence and post-sentence supervision will be 12 months.

However, the extra supervision period is post-sentence and does not affect the rehabilitation period for the conviction. In the example given, the sentence imposed is six months and the rehabilitation period would apply accordingly – the period of the sentence plus two years beyond the end date of the sentence – and the additional nine months of supervision will not be counted.

For example, if somebody was convicted as an adult in June 2014 and given 5 months in prison, the end of their sentence would be November 2014, so the conviction would become spent 2 years later (i.e. November 2016). The fact that the individual might be subject to ‘extended supervision’ into 2015 does not effect the ‘end of the sentence’ under the ROA.

A Community Order should have an end date, i.e. you might be given 180 hours, as part of a 12 month order. It doesn’t become spent quicker if you finish the hours quicker – the fixed period starts from the end of the court order.

Yes. However, non-payment of a fine may result in a further conviction, which will have its own rehabilitation period, and may drag the earlier conviction with it.

When you are applying for your basic DBS disclosure, you need to provide evidence to the Disclosure and Barring Service that the Compensation Order has been paid. You can obtain a letter of confirmation (or a receipt) from the Court when it is paid. If you don’t have this, you should be able to contact the court and ask them to confirm this in writing (and there shouldn’t be a charge for this). You can find further information on this advice post.

No, you only need to provide the evidence once. The Disclosure and Barring Service will keep this on file for all future basic disclosures.

It is unlikely that after 6 years a compensation order would be disclosed on a basic DBS certificate. However, this does not mean that you do not have to repay the compensation order. You are still legally required to repay the order and could be open to further legal action if you failed to do so.

A SOPO falls within the definition in the ROA of an Order that imposes a prohibition. The rehabilitation period for this type of Order ends on the date when the prohibition ceases to have effect. In your case, in five years time.

The conviction will become spent after a year (as an adult) or when the SOPO ends, whichever is longer. This will usually mean that the conviction won’t become spent until the SOPO ends. If you have a SOPO that doesn’t have an end date, you should consider getting legal advice and get it amended – find out more information here.

No. A sexual offender notification requirement is not regarded as a “disqualification, disability, prohibition or other penalty”. This means that the length of time you’re on the Sex Offenders Register is separate to how long it takes for a conviction to become spent. As a result of the reduced rehabilitation periods that came into force in 2014, it is now common for a conviction to become spent, but an individual still be subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The order itself isn’t deemed to be a criminal conviction it would only become one if you breached the order. The time it would take to become spent would depend on the sentence/disposal you received.

Technically, the conviction cannot become spent until the order ends. If you have an order that doesn’t have an end date, you should consider getting legal advice and get it amended.

The Act applies where an order is made on conviction, and the order imposes any disqualification, disability, prohibition or other penalty. Only if both of these circumstances are met will the order be subject to the rehabilitation provisions and may appear on a basic DBS disclosure certificate, if it has not yet ended. The Ministry of Justice hasn’t published a list of orders that this applies to, but the ones we have seen it apply to are covered in our detailed guide.

Fixed penalty notices (FPN) and penalty notices for disorder (PND) are on-the-spot fines issued by the police for minor offences. If you receive a FPN or PND and pay this within the specified time limit, all liability for the offence is discharged and the offence does not form part of your criminal record. However, if you fail to pay a FPN or PND on time, you are likely to receive a court summons. If you accept responsibility for the offence, whether in person at court or by post, or are found guilty, you will have a conviction which will (in most cases) form part of a criminal record.

In some cases where a FPN or PND has not been paid on time and has defaulted to court, the offence is not recorded as a conviction on the Police National Computer and remains a locally held record. If you have failed to pay a FPN or PND on time and the matter has defaulted to court, you may wish to access a copy of your criminal record after the court hearing to see how your information has been recorded.

Neither of these are technically classed as convictions, and are not technically covered by the Act, so they don’t become spent as such. Although this means that, if asked, you are not entitled to withhold the details of them, in practice you won’t normally get asked about them. Also, they don’t come back on basic, standard or enhanced DBS criminal record checks. This means that employers don’t have access to them through ordinary employment vetting processes.

However, a Fixed Penalty Notice for an endorseable motoring offence will result in an endorsement on your licence. This will stay on your licence for either 4 or 11 years. It also takes 5 years (as an adult) to become spent. In practice, this means that you will need to disclose it to motor insurers until it becomes spent. You may also need to disclose it to an employer, if you need to provide your employer with your driving licence.

Fixed Penalty Notices are not disclosed on basic DBS disclosures. Details of FPN’s are recorded locally by the Police, but they do not form part of the Police National Computer, which is what is used when basic disclosures are carried out.

Usually, when you receive a driving disqualification in court, you will receive an endorsement to your licence. An endorsement is subject to a five year rehabilitation period (as an adult) and your conviction would therefore be spent at the end of the five years and not at the end of the 18 month disqualification.

Unfortunately not. As part of applying for UK citizenship, there will be a check with the Police and other authorities as part of the character check. You will need to give details of all criminal convictions (this used to be just unspent convictions, but it now applies to all). There is further detailed guidance available here.

The ‘google effect’, internet search results and the right to be forgotten

Aim of this page

In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that individuals should be able to request the deletion or removal of personal data published online where there is no compelling reason for it to remain. This right to erasure is often referred to as ‘the right to be forgotten’.

This page sets out how to request the removal of online information and how you can appeal the decision if an online search engine refuses your request.

This is part of our section on information on the internet.

Why is this important?

Once your conviction is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, there is no legal obligation for you to disclose it when applying for the majority of jobs. However, information on the internet can stay around, long after a conviction becomes spent.

We’re aware that some employers will do ‘Google’ searches as a way of informally checking someone’s criminal record. If there are stories on the internet which relate to your conviction, an employer may be able to find out more about you than they are legally entitled to know.

If you’re aware of any links to your name on the internet and your conviction is spent, it’s definitely worth applying to have the links removed. If your application is successful, then you can be confident that any future employer or work colleague who searches for your name on the internet, won’t be able to find any information relating to your criminal record.


In May 2014, Google launched a system whereby individuals can request information about them be removed from Google’s search results. This came about because of a ruling on the 13th May by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy. The court found in his favour, which has already had wide-reaching consequences for search engines like Google.

The ruling only covers the removing of the search results – the information will still exist on the website that published the original article but Google won’t be able to deliver matches to some enquiries that are entered. Deletion of the original information would still be the responsibility of the website owner, and in our experience, it’s very rare that websites agree to remove details relating to convictions (see more in reporting of criminal records in the media).

Information will only disappear from searches made in Europe. Queries piped through its sites outside the EU will still show the relevant search results.

However, many people are still seeing the ruling as a potential way of dealing with the ‘google effect’ that often haunts people for lots of different reasons, and our Helpline and Forum have already seen this being raised by quite a few people when it comes to past convictions that have been reported online. So the important question for us is whether it will actually help people with convictions?

Is it likely to help people with convictions?

At the moment, the answer is that we simply don’t know. That’s why we want to encourage people with spent convictions to submit a request (see ‘What next’ below) to see how Google are dealing with requests like this.

Google itself has admitted that their system is their “initial effort” at complying with the Court’s judgement, and there’s little evidence of how they’re dealing with individual applications. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the judgement surprised many people, including Google themselves, and initial reports suggest that they’re being swamped with requests, with some suggesting that Google has been receiving over 10,000 requests per day. The ruling applies to other search engines too (e.g. Yahoo, Bing).

Google has said that information would start to be removed from mid-June and that decisions about data removal would be made by people rather than an algorithm which governs almost every part of Google’s search system.

In July 2014 Google removed a link to a story about an archaeology specialist who had received a conviction for shoplifting in May 2006.  Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, his conviction became spent in May 2008.  The individual had previously complained to the Press Complaints Commission in 2010 and despite two factual amendments being made, his case was dismissed by the PCC. He applied to Google in Summer 2014 and his request was granted.

Between May and October 2014, Google fielded requests from the UK to de-link some 18,304 websites; it has removed approximately 35% of requested URL’s.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in their “Court reporting: What to expect – Information for the public guidance”, have also made reference to the removal of links stating:

“If your convictions have been ‘spent’, you may have legal rights to have links to articles about these convictions to be removed from search engines. If you make a formal request to an internet search engine directly, they may remove these articles from search results.”

Google’s system

They’ve specifically stated that, when looking at whether to remove a search result, they’ll look at whether there’s a public interest in the information, and they mention criminal convictions in particular. At this point, it’s unclear how Google is making a decision about whether to approve a request that is made. The court ruling told Google it needed to provide users with an option to erase search results that were “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” but also “outdated”.

From our point of view, we strongly believe that once a conviction is spent, this should be removed from the internet (on request). Otherwise, protections that are afforded under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act are undermined.

It’s highly unlikely that Google will be willing to remove search results that relate to unspent criminal convictions. It is more likely where a conviction is spent, but at the time of writing, we’re unaware of any successful case where Google has agreed to remove search results relating to spent convictions.

The Information Commissioner’s Office view

The ICO themselves are looking at what this means for people in the UK.  In a blog post, a particular point they made was that;

“It is also important to remember that the exemption for journalism, art and literature under Schedule 2, part 5 (26) of the Data Protection Act 2018 can be applied by media organisations, bloggers and other publishers of information, depending on the circumstances. What this is not, then, is a full or absolute ‘right to be forgotten’.”

This casts doubt over to what extent Google (and others) will remove details such as convictions, where media organisations have claimed a legitimate exemption of the basis of journalism.

The Article 29 Working Party (which the ICO is part of) Guidelines on the implementation of the Courts judgement, gives a good indication as to how the ICO will treat complaints that it deals with. The ICO has also published their search result delisting criteria.

Making an application to Google

As part of Google’s current system, you have to do a couple of things.

Firstly, you have to provide the URL links for each link appearing in a Google search.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you have to explain why the search result is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate”. At the moment, the clearest argument is that your convictions are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, and so in most cases, you can treat it as if it had never happened. You should look to put forward any other reasons why you think it meets the definition of “irrelevant, outdated or inappropriate”. Until we begin to see examples of what’s worked and what hasn’t, it’s difficult to give much more guidance at this stage. The ‘representation box’ only allows you to use 1000 characters so you’ll need to keep your argument short and succinct.

Thirdly, you have to provide proof of your identity. Some people have expressed concern to us about this last point. However, we have no reason to think that this should put people off – ultimately, if your information is already available online, this application process cannot make things worse!

We have devised a search engine removal request template which can be used as a guide to completing the online form.

If you’re interested in making an application to Google, the online form is available here.

What next? Submit a request and see what they say!

We’re keen to see how Google are dealing with applications from people with convictions.

To do this, we’re encouraging people with spent convictions to complete Google’s online form, and get a decision from them. Bear in mind that they’re dealing with a lot of applications at the moment, so there might be quite a wait before you get a decision.

Once you receive a decision, please forward it to us to let us know what their decision is and why. You can forward their reply to us by sending it to (we won’t share your personal details externally). This will help us to collect evidence of how Google are dealing with requests from people with convictions, and help us to improve the information and advice we’re giving on this issue.

Reporting a concern to the Information Commissioner’s Office

Once you have a decision from Google, if they refuse your application, we would advise people to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Again, as it’s a new system, it’s unclear how the ICO is going to deal with these types of complaints. They have published a blog post in which they say that they’ll be looking for “evidence of damage and distress to individuals” when reviewing complaints about Google and others’ search results.

What will the ICO do?

If you decide to make a complaint to the ICO regarding Google’s refusal to remove a link then, the ICO will consider your request based on a set of criteria. If they believe that any links should be removed they will contact Google and ask them to de-list the information. Google will either agree with the ICO removing the link or refuse and refer back to the ICO.

If Google inform the ICO that they are refusing to remove a link after a request is made, the ICO will review the matter under their case review process with the involvement of senior colleagues, taking into account all of the circumstances of the case and arguments presented by all parties in order to decide whether the original decision was correct.

Where the ICO agrees with Google and decides that the link does not have to be removed from their search engine, you can still make an application to the court under section 167 of the Data Protection Act 2018, seeking an order that the court is satisfied there has been an infringement of your rights under the data protection legislation. The court would reach its own view as to whether they are satisfied there has been an infringement of your rights under the act. If you pursue this option you may wish to seek independent legal advice.

Having reviewed the overall circumstances of the case, we have concluded that it is appropriate to amend our assessment and we consider the search results likely to comply with the Data Protection Act. Therefore the ICO will not be requiring Google to delist the search results.

Although we recognise that the conviction is now deemed ‘spent’ for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and we take this into account, we must also consider the public interest in the availability of information about criminal convictions. Our published criteria explain that we are less likely to require the delisting of information about serious offences, and we consider sex offences involving minors to fall into this category.

While a number of years have passed since the conviction, we consider there to be a significant degree of public interest in the availability of information about convictions of this nature and on balance we consider this to mean the information in the search results remains relevant. In reaching this view, we also take account of the fact that you held a position of trust at the time the offences took place.

We recognise that the availability of the search results may be detrimental to you, but the right to have search results delisted is not absolute and does not necessarily entitle individuals to have negative information about them removed. When reaching decisions we must also take into consideration the relevance of the information to the public interest, which in this case we consider to be significant for the reasons I have explained. We have concluded that the original decision provided to you did not adequately take account of these factors.

Whilst the above refers to a sex offence, this does not mean you cannot apply to have your link removed if you have a spent conviction for a sex offence. You need to be aware that under ‘public interest’ a decision could be made that will result in your application to have your link removed declined.

Other ways of dealing with the Google effect

This problem isn’t new, and regardless of this new system, many people with convictions will continue to experience difficulties because of their convictions being reported online.

One option that some people look at is changing their name. Although this doesn’t get you away from your criminal record (because if an employer does a criminal record check, depending on whether your convictions are spent, and depending on the level of check, it will still come back) it does prevent people from getting access to information that they would otherwise not be allowed to (e.g. spent convictions if the job is covered by the ROA).

Another option that some people look at is trying to flood the internet with alternative, positive, stories about them, to ‘force down’ the reports that relate to their convictions.

Online reputation repair companies

There are many companies offering services to repair your online profile by replacing negative search results with positive coverage. These can be very expensive, often tying you in to long term contracts and only doing what you can do yourself.

If you’ve used one of these companies we’d like to hear from you. Tell us about your experiences by emailing

Personal experiences

The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Success with dealing with the ‘google-effect’ – Sam explains how her life has been turned around since Google agreed to remove links to her name

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Information Commissioners Office – The ICO are an independent authority set up to uphold individuals’ information rights.
  • Mycleanslate – If you have a spent conviction, Mycleanslate may be able to act on your behalf by making a request to search engines such as Google, Yahoo and bing to have links to your name removed. They currently charge a flat fee of between £100 – £250.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on changing your name and counteracting negative ‘Google’ or other internet search information
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag of ‘google-effect’
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Our policy workRead about the policy work we’re doing on this issue
  5. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

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

  1. Comment on this page below
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine
  5. Help our policy work – Stopping the ‘Google effect for people with spent convictions.

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in February 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to


Pre 10th March 2014 guide to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Updates to the law

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) enables some criminal convictions to be not disclosed after a rehabilitation period. Its purpose is that people do not have to disclose a criminal conviction for long periods of time.

The ROA has been reformed as a result of changes in the law in 2012. These came into force on the 10th March 2014.

The changes are ‘retrospective’, which means they apply to convictions received before the 10th March 2014, and in most cases the rehabilitation periods are reduced, so you should start by reading our latest guidance, which is available here.

Why might you need to know what the old law was?

There are some examples where the rehabilitation period has lengthened as a result of the changes. This is particularly the case for:

  1. Further convictions for summary offences – these will now normally drag previously unspent convictions with them
  2. Youth rehabilitation orders (in some cases)
  3. Detention and Training Orders for 12-14 year olds

However, it’s important to realise that anything that was previously spent under the old law cannot now become unspent.

As a result, if you received any of the above sentences before 10th March 2014, you might also want to check the guidance below, as well as use the old version of our Disclosure Calculator (which is also still available).

If, under the old law, your convictions were regarded as spent before 10th March 2014, even if they would now be regarded as unspent under the new law, you’re allowed to treat them as spent convictions.

What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974?

The rehabilitation period is automatically determined by the sentence, and starts from the date of the conviction. After this period free of further convictions, the conviction is “spent”, and with certain exceptions you are not obliged to mention a spent conviction in any context, including when applying for a job, or obtaining insurance, or in criminal or civil proceedings.

Certain professions are exempt from the Act so that individuals are not allowed to withhold details of previous convictions in relation to their job. These include :

  • Those working with children and other vulnerable groups, such as teachers and social workers
  • Those working in professions associated with the justice system, such as solicitor, police, court clerk, probation officer, prison officer and traffic warden
  • Doctors, dentists, chemists or nurses
  • Accountants

Positions that are exempt from the Act usually involve a standard or enhanced checks.


The ROA only covers England and Wales. No other country is bound by this legislation. There are very similar (but not identical) provisions for Scotland and Northern Ireland, but these are not covered by this information.

Rehabilitation periods

The table below sets out the main sentences, orders and warnings and the ‘rehabilitation period’ attached to each. The period starts from the date of warning or conviction, unless otherwise stated.

The time it takes for a conviction to become ‘spent’ depends on the sentence given, not the offence committed (except for the offence of Loitering and Soliciting under the Policing and Crime Act 2009, where the period is six months).

For custodial sentences, the rehabilitation period is decided by using the sentence imposed at court, rather than the time served in custody.

Before selecting a particular sentence, please sure you look at any notes relating to that sentence underneath.


Notes on rehabilitation periods

  1. This has been replaced by the youth rehabilitation order.
  2. This has been replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles
  3. This was abolished in 1983.
  4. Care orders in criminal proceedings were abolished by the Children Act 1989 and effectively replaced by a supervision order with residence requirements.
  5. This was replaced by the community punishment and rehabilitation order, which was itself replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  6. This has been replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  7. This has been replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  8. This has been replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  9. This was replaced by the community punishment order, which was itself replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  10. This is an ancillary order which is treated as a sentence in its own right.
  11. This has been replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  12. This was abolished in 1988.
  13. This was abolished for those under 18 in 2000 and replaced by the detention and training order, but it is still available for those aged 18-20 years.
  14. This was abolished for those under 18 in 2000 and replaced by the detention and training order, but it is still available for those aged 18-20 years.
  15. This is an ancillary order which is treated as a sentence in its own right.
  16. This has been replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  17. This is a sentence, but it is not a penalty. It has a rehabilitation period of five years under a general sweep-up provision in the ROA which applies to sentences not otherwise specified.
  18. The rehabilitation period applies even if the offender is subsequently imprisoned for default of a fine.
  19. This is an ancillary order which is treated as a sentence in its own right.
  20. This was replaced by the community rehabilitation order, which was itself replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  21. This was replaced by the community rehabilitation order, which was itself replaced by the community order for adults and the youth rehabilitation order for juveniles.
  22. This was abolished in 2000 and replaced by the detention and training order.
  23. This has been replaced by the youth rehabilitation order.
  24. To be piloted in six areas around the country from mid-2010.
  25. This was abolished in 1988.
  26. This was abolished in 1988.
  27. This replaces a number of orders for offences committed after 30 November 2009.

When the rehabilitation period starts

The rehabilitation period runs from the date of conviction. This is set out in s.5(2) of the Act, which states that the rehabilitation period (as defined in subsections (a) and (b)) are “reckoned in either case from the date of the conviction in respect of which the sentence was imposed”.

Where the sentence is not imposed on the date of conviction, there is potentially a period where you will not be aware of what the rehabilitation period for the conviction is until you receive your sentence. However, sentencing decisions, where they are not made on the date of conviction, usually follow relatively swiftly after it. The shortest rehabilitation period which is available where a conviction is imposed in front of a court is an absolute discharge, where the rehabilitation period is 6 months. It is unlikely that an individual would not have been sentenced by this point. The only exception to this is compensation orders, which become spent once paid, however it is highly unlikely that a court would simply sentence an individual to a compensation order alone.

When asked for details of unspent convictions, it is only the conviction that needs to be disclosed, not the rehabilitation period. Therefore, where you await sentence, you will need to disclose that conviction.

When the offence was committed does not influence the rehabilitation period.

For example, if you committed an offence in 2002 and were not convicted until 2010, the ‘rehabilitation period’ would run from 2010.


The rehabilitation period for a disqualification is the length of the disqualification. If a person is disqualified (e.g. from driving or from being a company director) and at the same time receives another penalty, the longer of the two rehabilitation periods applies.

For example, if you are banned from driving for seven years and also fined, although the fine becomes spent after 5 years, the rehabilitation period for the conviction (including both the disqualification and fine) would be 7 years, not 5 years.

Endorsements and penalty points


Road traffic legislation does not specify how an endorsement is to be treated for the purposes of the ROA. The case of Power v Provincial is, therefore, the established authority that an endorsement is a sentence, not a penalty. The Court of Appeal said that it has a rehabilitation period of five years under a general sweep-up provision in the ROA, which applies to sentences not otherwise specified. How long the endorsement remains on the licence is irrelevant.

For example, if you are fined for drink driving and have your licence endorsed, the rehabilitation period would be five years (the length applicable to the fine) rather than 11 years (the length of time before a driver convicted of drink driving is entitled to a clean driving licence).

Penalty points

Penalty points are considered under section 5(8) of the ROA. Section 29(2) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 provides for totting up of penalty points where offences are committed within three years of each other.

As a result, penalty points alone have a rehabilitation period of three years. However, penalty points are normally issued by courts in combination with a fine, which would mean that it would be 5 years.

Further convictions

If you are convicted of a minor offence (a ‘summary’ offence), which can be tried only in a magistrates’ court, the rehabilitation period for the further conviction will run separately – therefore, the rehabilitation period for the further offence could end before the rehabilitation period for the first offence. Summary offences include most motoring offences, criminal damage of £5,000 or less, drunkenness and kerb-crawling. More details can be found in the user guide of our Disclosure Calculator.

For example, if you received 100 hours community service (5 year disclosure period) and then one year later was fined for a minor offence (which could only be tried in a magistrates’ court, the community service conviction would become spent before the fine. Therefore, once the first conviction became spent, only the fine would need to be disclosed until it became spent.

If the second conviction is either triable either way (can be tried in either court), or indictable (i.e. can only be tried in the Crown Court), then neither conviction will become spent until the rehabilitation period for both is over. This applies even if the first conviction was for a summary offence. If the further conviction leads to a prison sentence of more than 30 months, neither conviction will ever become spent. Once a conviction becomes spent, it remains spent, even if you are subsequently convicted for further offences.

For example, if you received a fine and then one year later was convicted for a serious offence, both convictions would have to be disclosed until the fine became spent.

If, however, the first conviction leads to a prison sentence of more over 30 months, later convictions with fixed rehabilitation periods will become spent separately.

If the first offence was for loitering or soliciting and you are convicted again for the same offence, the rehabilitation period for the first offence will be extended by the second offence, even if the rehabilitation period for the first had expired. This is the only example where a previously spent conviction can become unspent.

Concurrent and consecutive sentences

If you receive two or more prison sentences in the course of the same proceedings, the rehabilitation period will depend on whether the sentences are ordered to run concurrently or consecutively.

Concurrent – Two sentences of 6 months to take effect concurrently are treated as one sentence of 6 months, and therefore have a disclosure period of 7 years.

Consecutive – Two prison sentences of 6 months ordered to run consecutively are treated as a single terms of 12 months, giving a rehabilitation period of 10 years.

Prison sentences ordered to run consecutively to sentences already being served are not affected by this rule.

Breach of court orders

If you are given a community order or conditional discharge order and are later brought before the courts for a breach of that order, this can affect the rehabilitation period applicable to the original conviction.

If the court imposes a further sentence when it deals with the breach, then the original conviction will run on until both rehabilitation periods have expired.

Sometimes the courts may not deal with the breach until after the rehabilitation period applying to the original conviction has already expired. If the court then imposes a further sentence in dealing with the breach, the original conviction will still not become spent until the new rehabilitation period has expired.

Military convictions

The ROA also applies to convictions in the armed forces, including some service offences (see below). However, if the service offence was of a kind which most people would not consider criminal (such as failing to salute an officer), the ROA only applies if the sentence was three months’ detention or more.

The service offences to which the Act always applies are:

Army and Air Force


LootingCorresponding with, supplying or serving the enemy
Offences relating to property of members of forcesLoss or waste of public and service property
Miscellaneous offences relating to propertyOffences relating to issues and decorations
Making of false statements on enlistmentFalse statements on entry
Making of false documentsFalsification of documents
Scandalous conduct by an officerCruelty or scandalous conduct by an officer
Disgraceful conductDisgraceful conduct

Other than those list above, the ROA only applies to service offences if the punishment awarded was imprisonment, cashiering, discharge with ignominy or dismissal with disgrace from HM Service; dismissal from HM Service; or detention for a term of three months or more. The rehabilitation periods for the various sentences are set out below.

Military sentence

Rehabilitation period

Cashiering, discharge with ignominy or dismissal with disgrace10 years (halved if under 18 at the time)
A sentence of dismissal7 years (halved if under 18 at the time)
A custodial order of more than 6 months (1)7 years (halved if under 18 at the time)
A sentence of detention in respect of conviction in service disciplinary proceedings5 years (halved if under 18 at the time)
A custodial order of 6 months or less (2)3 years (halved if under 18 at the time)
  1. Under the relevant schedules and sections of the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957 where the maximum period of detention is more than 6 months
  2. Under the relevant schedules and sections of the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957 where the maximum period of detention specified is 6 months or less

Convictions obtained overseas

A conviction for the purposes of the ROA includes a conviction issued outside Great Britain (see s1(4) of the 1974 Act) and therefore foreign convictions are eligible to receive the protection of the ROA.

For example, if you received a sentence of 10 months in prison whilst you lived in Australia, you would have to continue disclosing it in this country for 10 years after conviction, irrespective of what the disclosure periods are in Australia.

However, there is some confusion regarding what to do when a sentence given abroad doesn’t match with those in the ROA. We have spoken to the Ministry of Justice about this and have been informed that, where sentences received abroad do not match with those contained in the Act, the only way to approach it is to find a domestic sentence which is the nearest equivalent. This would appear to be something that you have to decide, as neither the Courts nor the Ministry of Justice operate a process for deciding this process on your behalf. If in doubt, contact the Ministry of Justice Policy team responsible for the ROA – email

More general information about convictions obtained overseas is available here.

Retention of criminal records

Your conviction will remain on record even after it has become spent – it will not be deleted from the Police National Computer.

Previously, there were mechanisms available where records of reportable offences (i.e. offences which can be tried in the Crown Court, whether or not they actually are) were deleted after 20 years, unless there were further convictions or if there is evidence of mental illness, indecency, drug trafficking or homicide. Records of non-reportable offences could be deleted after 10 years.

However, a Court of Appeal decision in October 2009 ruled that the indefinite retention of criminal records on the PNC was lawful. See the retention and deletion of police records for more information.


Cautions, reprimands and final warnings are not criminal convictions and, until 2008, were not covered by the Act. This meant that, technically speaking, people with cautions, reprimands or final warnings, when asked whether they had a criminal record, should have disclosed them.

However, in December 2008, legislation was passed which rectified this rather strange anomaly. Part 4 of Schedule 27 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 states that a caution becomes spent immediately. Conditional cautions become spent after 3 months.

Benefits of the ROA

It means that if you are asked on an application form or at an interview whether you have any previous convictions, you can answer no if the convictions are spent and the job applied for is not an exception from the Act. Under the terms of the Act, a spent conviction shall not be proper grounds for not employing or for termination of employment.

However, if you do not disclose unspent convictions when asked to do so, you risk dismissal on the grounds of deceiving the employer and could face prosecution.

Also, the Act does not provide any means of enforcing your right to not be refused employment (or entry into a profession) on the grounds of a spent conviction. If, however, you can prove that you have been dismissed for a spent conviction and you have been in employment for two years or more, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal under employment legislation. Find out more about convictions and employment law.

Applying for insurance

If an insurance proposal form asks whether your have any previous convictions, the answer can be no if your convictions are spent. This is the case even if the insurer believes that the conviction is relevant to the risk which the insurers will underwrite. For example, spent motoring convictions can be omitted from a proposal form for motor insurance.

For more information about insurance, click here.

Civil proceedings

In civil proceedings, no one should be asked questions which might lead to disclosure of spent convictions. If such questions are asked, they need not be answered. However, this rule does not apply: –

  • in civil proceedings relating to children (adoption, guardianship, wardship, marriage, custody, care and control, schooling);
  • when the court is satisfied that justice cannot be done unless evidence of spent convictions is admitted (anyone who has spent convictions can always consent to evidence being given about them);
  • if the proceedings involve a matter excepted from the Act.

The rule on civil proceedings applies not only to ordinary courts, but also to arbitration proceedings, disciplinary proceedings before an administrative tribunal, and to a club committee which has powers to affect anyones rights, privileges, obligations, or liabilities.

Criminal proceedings

Previous convictions can be cited in criminal proceedings, even if they are spent. The Lord Chief Justice and the Home Office have, however, advised the Courts that spent convictions should not be mentioned except in very special circumstances.

Confidential information

The Act makes it an offence for anyone with access to criminal records to disclose spent convictions unless authorised to do so. The Act makes it a more serious offence to obtain such information by means of fraud, dishonesty or bribe. However, as far as we are aware, nobody has been prosecuted for an offence under this section.

It might be possible for a person with spent convictions to sue for libel anyone making an allegation about spent convictions, if it can be proved that the allegation was made with malice.


Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975, as amended, there are many offices, occupations and positions which are exempt from the Act.

In these situations, employers and professional bodes can ask you to disclose both spent and unspent convictions and, in addition, they can carry out a standard or enhanced check with the Disclosure & Barring Service.

More information about the DBS, and eligibility in particular, is available here.

Some of the main positions exempt from the ROA include:

  • any work which is defined as regulated activity relating to children or vulnerable adults within the meaning of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
  • certain professions, occupations, offices and employments in areas such as health, pharmacy, finance, the courts and the law
  • licences to drive taxis and to work in the private security industry

Application forms for posts which are exempt from the Act should always make this clear, although some employers claim that posts are exempt when they are not. If in doubt, seek advice.

Going abroad

The Act only covers England and Wales; other countries have their own rules about those to whom they will give visas and work permits. Embassies or overseas employment agencies should be able to provide information about this.

Working out if your record is spent

There are a number of ways in which you can find out when your record is spent. Click here for more information.


“When do I need to tell employers about my criminal record” – ‘Easy Read’ guide on the ROA

As part of our range of information on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, we have worked in partnership with KeyRing (with special thanks to Neisha Betts) to produce an Easy Read version of information on this subject. This is available to download by clicking the image below.


What is EasyRead?

‘Easy Read’ documents present information using simple words and pictures that make information easier to understand. The use of Easy Read is common-place in health and social care organizations, as well as other areas. It can help anyone with reading or comprehension difficulties, including those with learning disabilities, learning difficulties and also people for whom English is not their first language. Easy Read is classed as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ (The Equalities Act, 2010) as it helps to ensure people have access to the same information as others.


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.

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