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Reductions to rehabilitation periods

BY Sarah Mennie
Employment law
BG Purple

March 10th saw the introduction of changes to rehabilitation periods under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which, broadly, have reduced the timeframes during which prospective employees are required to disclose past convictions.  The application of these changes has been restricted to England and Wales and so rehabilitation periods in Scotland will remain unchanged.


The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides that after a specified period of time a conviction will become ‘spent’ and the offender ‘rehabilitated’. The resultant effect of this being that the individual will be able to apply for a job without having to disclose the fact that they have a criminal conviction, as though they have never been convicted.   Note, however, that there are a number of exempt occupations for which all convictions must be disclosed regardless of whether the conviction is ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’, e.g.  lawyers, medics, accountants, judges, police officers, prison officers, those who work with children, vulnerable adults or providing health care services. 

Under the new scheme only public protection sentences and custodial sentences greater than 4 years in length will never be spent. Custodial sentences greater than 2 and a half years, which would previously have remained unspent will now be subject to a 7 year rehabilitation period from the completion of the sentence. Custodial sentences between 6 months and 2 and a half years which would previously have been spent 10 years after the date of conviction will now be considered spent 4 years following the completion of the sentence.  Full details of the new rehabilitation periods can be obtained from your Legal Manager or found under s139 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

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