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Changes on rules on "spent" convictions to come into effect

28th February 2014
The Rehabilitiation of Offenders Act 1974 sets out the periods over which certain convictions need to disclosed to potential employers. After the set period has elapsed, those offences which occurred are treated as being "spent", and do not need to be disclosed to potential employers. There are some types of work and professions for whom these provisions do not apply, such as for nurses, doctors, solicitors, accountants, and teachers, but the rules on "spent" convictions apply to the vast majority of occupations.
The Government has announced that the current rules will change on the 10th March 2014. The basic effect of these changes is that the period before which certain offences become "spent" will reduce.
The reason given for the changes is the general plan to reduce the risk of reoffending, and getting people back into work has been shown through research by the Ministry of Justice to reduce the risks of reoffending.
However, employers will need to be aware of the impact of these changes with the reduction of the period over which any offences must be disclosed by potential job applicants.
The general principle of the legislation is that employers cannot lawfully refuse employment to a person because of an offence that has been "spent", unless the work falls within the exempt categories. an applicant will not have to reveal of diclose "spent" offences (see our Free Factsheet on "Spent convictions").
The changes in the legislation will mean that the rehabilitation periods for custodial sentences will in future comprise the period of the actual sentence PLUS an additional specified period. This replaces the system where the rehabilitation period starts from the actual date of conviction itself. So, for example an offender sentenced to two and a half years in custody would ( under the old rules) have had to declare the conviction for ten years from the date of the conviction, will now only have to disclose the conviction for the period of the actual sentence PLUS a further four years- giving a total period of six and a half years.
For custodial sentences of up to 6 months the new rehabilitation period will be the period of the sentence (ie of up to six months) PLUS 2 years. For those sentenced to between 6 and 30 months in custody the rehabilitation period will be the period of the sentence given PLUS 4 years. For those sentenced between 30 months and 4 years the rehabilitation period will be the period of the sentence PLUS 7 years. For those sentenced to over 4 years in custody the sentence is never spent.
The provision extend to non-custodial sentences too, such as where a person is given a community order or youth rehabilitation order. In these cases the new rehabilitation period will be the period of the sentence PLUS 1 year. If a person receives a sentence of a fine the new rehabilitation period will be 1 year from the date of conviction.
The changes will remove one oddity (and unfairness) in the current system, which is that at present if a person receives an absolute discharge they still have to disclose it for a period of 6 months! That will change, so that in the event of receiving an absolute discharge the person will not have to declare it as it will be treated in effect as if spent immediately.
Some differences apply to persons under the age of 18 at the date of conviction, for whom the periods are halved (other than in the event of receiving a custodial sentence of up to six months).
If you require assistance on any matter arising from this do not hesitate to contact us at Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd.         
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