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Rehabilitation periods changing

From 10 March, a number of changes are being made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012.

Under the ROA, after a specific period of time has passed, cautions and convictions are regarded as spent. Once a caution or conviction becomes spent, an individual is treated as rehabilitated with regards to that offence, and they don’t have to declare it for most purposes, for example when applying for employment or insurance.

All the changes are retrospective. This means that those convicted before the new rules come into force will be affected by the changes, although no convictions which are already spent will become unspent.

The main changes to the ROA are as follows:- New guidance on the changes to the ROA has been issued by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and can be found at

  • an increase in the maximum sentence capable of becoming spent, so that prison sentences of up to and including four years can become spent
  • for convictions resulting in a custodial sentence, the rehabilitation period will start from the end of the sentence and not at the point of release from prison
  • most rehabilitation periods will be reduced. For example, a two year adult prison sentence has a rehabilitation period of ten years from conviction. Following the changes, this will now have a four year period starting at the end of the two year sentence. Therefore, the rehabilitation period has been reduced from ten to six years from conviction
  • some rehabilitation periods will be increased, for example, further convictions for summary offences. These will no longer run separately from other unspent convictions and following the changes will not become spent until the rehabilitation periods for both offences are over. This means that both convictions have to be declared until the longer of the two periods is over
  • the UK Border Agency (UKBA) can take account of spent convictions in their immigration and nationality decisions.

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