The government has recently approved a proposal to reform the disclosure of criminal records.
A review of the sentencing system found that a critical element in reducing offending was having access to employment. Having unspent convictions can be a barrier to gaining employment, so the proposal is to change the law to reduce the number of people required to disclose convictions.
Once an individual’s conviction is spent, they are considered, save for the exceptions below, as fully rehabilitated and treated as if they never had the conviction.
The current system
All cautions and convictions eventually become spent, except for prison sentences over 30 months.
• A simple caution is spent immediately;
• community sentences after the order plus one year;
• imprisonment of less than 6 months is spent after 2 years;
• imprisonment between 6 months and 30 months is spent after 4 years;
• imprisonment between 30 months and 4 years is spent after 7 years; and
• imprisonment over 4 years, the conviction is never spent.
In general terms, all the rehabilitation periods are halved for those aged under 18 at the time of conviction. This recognises that children who offend are often vulnerable and still maturing.
There are still occasions when spent convictions have to be declared. These primarily relate to sensitive areas such as work with children or vulnerable adults, the law and high-level financial positions.
The most significant proposal is to remove the rule that convictions involving a sentence over 4 years can never become spent. This will not apply, however, to convictions for serious sexual, violent and terrorist offences.
• A community order will be spent on the last day of the order;
• imprisonment of 1 year or less will be spent after 1 year;
• imprisonment between 1 year and 4 years will be spent after 4 years; and
• imprisonment of more than 4 years will be spent after 7 years.
The rehabilitation period in respect of those convicted under the age of 18 will be half of those for adults.
The same principles will apply that even spent convictions will need to be declared in certain situations.
What difference will this make?
More than half of employers have said that they would not employ someone with a criminal record. Currently, someone who committed a serious offence of theft 20 years ago, and who has not re-offended since, would have to declare that conviction. Under the new proposals, they may not have to.
Is any other action being taken?
A Prison Leaver Project was announced last year which aims to assist those leaving prison. The government says this will provide £20 million of funding to support local leadership and identify new ways of tackling re-offending.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with any member of our vastly experienced Criminal Defence team, for assistance with any criminal law related matter.