Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 Guidance

The advert and enclosures contained within the application pack will confirm whether or not a post exempt from the Act.

Previous convictions

The application form asks you to provide details about previous convictions for criminal offences. You should read these guidance notes before completing the questions.

Posts exempt from the Act

If the post is exempt from the Act all convictions spent or unspent must be disclosed.

You must disclose all convictions irrespective of whether they are spent or not.

Posts non-exempt from the Act

If this post is not exempt from the Act:

Spent convictions

A conviction becomes spent after a certain length of time, which depends upon the sentence imposed and the individuals age at the time of conviction.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, you do not need to provide details about previous convictions, which are 'spent'.

Examples are:


Rehabilitation Period


People aged 18 or over when convicted

People aged 17 or under when convicted​

Prison sentences of 6 months or less

7 years

3½ years

Prison sentences of more than 6 months to 2½ years

10 years

5 years

Borstal training (abolished in 1983)

7 years

6 years

Detention centres (abolished in 1988)

3 years

3 years

Fines, compensation, probation, community service, combination, action plan, curfew, drug treatment and testing, and reparation orders

5 years

2 ½ years

Absolute discharge

6 months

6 months

Exempt sentences

The following sentences are exempt from the Act:

  • A sentence of imprisonment for life
  • A sentence of imprisonment, youth custody, detention in a young offender institution or corrective training for a term exceeding 30 months
  • A sentence of preventive detention
  • A sentence of detention during Her Majesty's pleasure or for life or a sentence of detention for a term exceeding 30 months given to a young offender convicted of a grave crime or detention of more than 30 months of a child convicted on indictment or a Court Martial punishment
  • A sentence of custody for life

Exempt and non-exempt posts

The following applies to both exempt and non-exempt posts.

  • Any information given will be treated as confidential and used only in connection with this application
  • An offer of employment may be withdrawn or dismissal may result if previous convictions for 'unspent' criminal offences are not disclosed
  • If you have any doubts about whether you have to declare a previous conviction, you should contact your local Probation Office, Citizens Advice Bureau or your solicitor

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