After the sentence is spent, you’re considered rehabilitated, and you no longer have to reveal the conviction on forms. The length of time it takes for a sentence to become spent depends on the sentence itself. The time starts ticking as soon as you’re convicted.
Here are a few examples (for adult offenders who are 18 and over):
- If you’re sentenced to prison for more than 30 months, the sentence will never be spent. It’s the length of the original sentence that counts and not the time you spend in prison.
- If you go to prison for between 6 months and 30 months, it will take ten years before the sentence is spent.
- If you get a community service order, the sentence is spent in five years.
- If you’re given an absolute discharge (you may be guilty of the offence, but the court feels it wouldn’t be fair to punish you), it takes six months before the slate is wiped clean again.
Criminal records – Committing another offence while you’re waiting for the first sentence to be spent may extend the time it takes for you to be rehabilitated. After the sentence is spent and you’ve been rehabilitated, it will be as if you had not been charged and convicted.
In most circumstances, you won’t have to reveal that you have a spent conviction. However, exceptions abound. Members of certain professions always have to reveal spent convictions: doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, teachers, probation officers, prison officers, vets, traffic wardens, and those working with children and vulnerable adults.
Discuss your own particular case with your solicitor. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 doesn’t apply outside the UK, so you always have to reveal details when applying for jobs or visas in foreign countries.
Checking criminal records
The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) keeps a database of all convictions, cautions, and warnings spent and unspent. Employers taking on employees and volunteers to work with children and vulnerable adults must check criminal records with the CRB. A standard disclosure from CRB reveals to the employer the applicant’s spent and unspent convictions and any police cautions or reprimands. If no criminal record exists, the Bureau will say so.
Criminal records – If the job means regular contact with children and being in sole charge of them, an enhanced disclosure provides the same details as the standard disclosure, but also adds any information from local police records, such as allegations made to the police by other people even if those weren’t followed up.
The disclosures appear if someone is banned from working with children and if an employer can request a detailed CRB check.