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Reform: Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Reform: Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Looking at new rehabilitation periods

On 10 March 2014, reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) came into force.  The changes reduce the period of time during which some offenders are required to disclose details of low level convictions to prospective employers.  The reforms were introduced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012.


Under the ROA, after a certain period of time, the majority of convictions and cautions become ‘spent’.  At that point, the offender is deemed to be rehabilitated.  Employers are not generally allowed to ask for disclosure of spent convictions or cautions.  However, there are exceptions when recruiting for certain job categories covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. If employers ask for convictions to be disclosed, an individual must declare an ‘unspent’ conviction.

An unspent conviction will include a recent conviction where the specified rehabilitation period has not expired or a conviction for a serious crime, eg. where the sentence of imprisonment is more than 4 years.

New system

New rehabilitation periods for custodial sentences and community orders will be made up of the period of the sentence, plus an additional specified ‘buffer’ period.

An example that has been given by the government is of an adult offender sentenced to a two and a half year prison sentence.  Previously, the offender would have had to declare their conviction for 10 years from the date of conviction.  Under new rules they will have to disclose their conviction for the length of the sentence plus a further four years – so a total rehabilitation period of six and a half years.  The changes are retrospective so they will apply to people convicted before 10 March 2014.

The new rehabilitation periods under the ROA are set out in the Guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and will depend on whether they relate to a custodial or non-custodial sentence.

The Guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 may be found here.


Published: 13th March 2014