Rehabilitation of offenders
Rehabilitation of offenders

The following Corporate Crime guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Rehabilitation of offenders
  • What is a spent conviction?
  • Sentences outside the scope of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • Rehabilitation periods for single convictions
  • Rehabilitation periods for cautions or conditional cautions
  • Rehabilitation periods for absolute or conditional discharges
  • Fixed penalty notices
  • Further convictions
  • Concurrent and consecutive sentences
  • Breach of court orders
  • more

What is a spent conviction?

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA 1974) convictions may become spent after a specified period of time. The period of time will vary depending on the disposal administered or sentence passed. If a conviction or caution has become spent, for most purposes the offender is treated as having never committed an offence. This means people with spent convictions or cautions have the right under ROA 1974 not to declare them when applying, for example, for most jobs or insurance.

ROA 1974 only operates in the UK, although the provisions apply to convictions abroad for offences that would be offences in the UK.

There are differences in the way in which ROA 1974 operates in Scotland. For information see the Scottish Government's guidance.

ROA 1974 expressly states that its provisions do not apply to criminal proceedings. This means that spent convictions are potentially admissible as evidence, subject to satisfying one or more of the gateways of admissibility contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003).

See Admissibility of defendant's bad character in criminal proceedings.

Despite the restrictions on the ambit of ROA 1974 in criminal proceedings, the Consolidated Criminal Practice Direction states that no one should refer in open court to a spent conviction without the authority of the judge, which should only be given if it