By Maria Koukou, 6th February 2023
Spent convictions & cautions
If you have ever received a conviction or a caution, you may have heard the term ‘spent’ and wondered how that affected you.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, convictions and cautions may become spent. When this happens, the person who received the conviction or caution is regarded as rehabilitated. The amount of time required before a conviction or caution becomes spent is determined by the type or length of sentence imposed; not on the offence. Another factor is also the person’s age at the time of the conviction.
For example, if a person receives a custodial sentence of over 4 years, the conviction will never be spent regardless of the person’s age whereas if the person receives a Community Order or Youth Rehabilitation Order, this will be spent in 1 year if the person is over 18 or 6 months if the person is under 18 at the time of conviction. With regards to cautions, a simple or youth caution is spent immediately regardless of age whereas a conditional caution and youth conditional caution will be spent in 3 months or when the caution ceases to have effect (if earlier) if the person is over 18, and in 3 months if the person is under 18 at the time the caution is given.
Applying for a job?
If your conviction or caution is spent, you normally do not have to disclose it to prospective employers. However, there are exceptions to this rule. These exceptions relate to jobs in sensitive areas such as work with children, health and social care, law enforcement and the legal system, national security, prison and probation services, high-level financial positions and licensing purposes.
If you have a spent conviction or caution and are applying for a job that comes under the above exceptions, you should not assume that the potential employer will refuse employment as the Disclosure and Barring Service Code of Practice requires registered employers to have a fair and clear policy regarding such candidates as well as not to discriminate against them.
If the job you are applying for falls into any of the above categories, we would strongly advise that you disclose your spent conviction or caution when filling in a form or at a job interview. Failure to do so might lead to you being unsuccessful or the potential employer withdrawing their job offer, if that the position was already offered and the employer only found out about your spent conviction or caution after a DBS check. This is because the employer might feel that you have tried to be dishonest by withholding information and will see it as a breach of trust. Therefore, the best policy would be to be honest with any potential employer at the earliest opportunity so you can explain the circumstances and alleviate any concerns the potential employer may have.