Back in 1974, new legislation was passed which was designed to help people who had been convicted of crimes to slot back into life and make a fresh start. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allows people not to disclose older convictions in many situations, such as when applying for a job or buying insurance. There are limits to the Act, which means that most convictions resulting in more than 4 years in prison cannot ever be considered spent. For other convictions and cautions, they will be deleted from your record in most circumstances after a set period of time.
Applying as an Ex-Offender
The main benefit of the legislation is that is makes getting a job easier if you have a criminal record. You have the right not to disclose any of your spent convictions, unless you are applying for a position which requires a more detailed disclosure check. Insurance companies will also often ask about convictions when buying a car insurance policy but usually for only convictions which are motoring related. If you are unsure about whether your conviction is relevant to your insurance application or not, check with the company concerned.
This rehabilitation legislation only covers people who are applying for work in the UK. If you are thinking of moving overseas for work, then local rules will apply and they may have different ideas about when convictions are considered spent, if at all.
Things start to get complicated when you have one conviction on your record which is not spent, and you get another one. Neither conviction will be spent until the newest one is spent. If the second conviction is more serious, and you are sent to prison for over 4 years, then neither of the two convictions will ever be spent.
Finding Out About Your Spent Convictions
One of the easiest ways of finding out whether you have any spent convictions or not is to apply for a basic DBS check. An employer might also require a basic DBS check for a new position but will need your permission to run the checks. Anything which is not on a basic DBS check is spent.
Spent convictions can be taken into account in certain situations, especially when you are thinking about applying for work with children or in healthcare, or when taking a position of trust in the prison or court service. Most of these roles will require a standard or enhanced DBS check, which can look at your spent convictions as well as the current. Having convictions on your record doesn’t mean an automatic ban to getting a job in a position which requires a DBS check. It’s up to each individual employer to develop their own policies on safe recruitment and consider each case on its merits. It goes without saying that serious convictions for violence or sex offences will mean an automatic refusal. But people with minor convictions may get a positive response, especially with great references and a strong track record.