Reforms reducing the period during which offenders have to disclose convictions to potential employers due to come into force on 10 March 2014

As part of their ongoing commitment to tackling reoffending by helping offenders get back into ‘honest work,’ the Government has announced changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 which reduce the period during which convictions have to be disclosed to potential employers. The changes are part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012 and are due to come into force on 10th March 2014.

In introducing the reforms the Government has relied on Ministry of Justice research which states that former offenders who gain employment are less likely to reoffend. Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, has said the aim of the reforms is to “give offenders who have served their sentence a fair chance of getting their lives back on track.”

Under the new legislation the rehabilitation period for community sentences and custodial sentences will consist of the period of the sentence plus an additional specified period, known as the ‘buffer period’. After the rehabilitation period has expired the conviction or caution is ‘spent’ and so the individual does not have to disclose it to a potential employer. However, all offenders will still have to declare all convictions when applying for jobs in sensitive work places or when working with vulnerable people, such as when applying for jobs in schools or hospitals.

The changes are outlined below:

Custodial sentences:

Length of sentence Current rehabilitation period New rehabilitation period is the length of the sentence plus the buffer period below (which starts from the end of the sentence)
0 – 6 months 7 years 2 years
6 – 30 months 10 years 4 years
30 months – 4 years Never spent 7 years
Over 4 years Never spent Never spent

Non-custodial sentences:

Sentence Current rehabilitation period New rehabilitation period is the length of the sentence plus the buffer period below which starts from the end of the sentence
Community Order (and youth rehabilitation order) 5 years 1 year
Fine 5 years 1 year (from date of conviction)
Absolute discharge 6 months None
Conditional discharge, referral order, reparation order, action plan order, supervision order, bind over order, hospital order Various – mostly between 1 year and length of the order Period of order

As with the current scheme, the above periods are halved for persons under the age of 18 at the date of their conviction (except for custodial sentences of up to 6 months where the buffer period will be 18 months for persons under 18 at the date of conviction.)

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