The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 applies to England, Scotland and Wales, and is aimed at helping people who have been convicted of a criminal offence and who have not re-offended since.
It was updated in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
Impact of legislation
It ensures that those with past offences are not unfairly excluded from working, including with vulnerable groups. This guidance is written to help people giving advice and information to ex-offenders so they understand:
- the difference between spent and unspent convictions
- how long before different kinds of conviction are considered to be spent
- which convictions must be declared when applying for jobs or insurance
- which spent cautions or convictions must still be declared
Anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offence where the sentence was under 2.5 years in prison, benefits from the Act, so long s/he or she is not convicted again during the ‘rehabilitation period’. Their conviction then becomes ‘spent’. It is the sentence imposed by the courts that counts, even if it is a suspended sentence, not the time actually spent in prison.
Once a conviction is ‘spent’, the convicted person does not have to reveal it or admit its existence in most circumstances.
However, there are two main exceptions which relate to people working with children or vulnerable adults. In these cases someone applying for a role is required to reveal all convictions, both spent and unspent.
For further information, see the Guidance issued by the Ministry of Justice.
Offender Support Organisations
Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. It was established in 1866 and is named after John Howard, one of the first prison reformers. The blog of Director Francis Crook is an up to date summary of key issues.
NACRO – The charity called the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) was established in 1966 to help ex-offenders resettle, to work with individuals at risk of getting involved in crime, and with communities to help prevent crime. In 1999 it changed its name to Nacro.
UNLOCK, the National Association of Reformed Offenders is an independent charity and membership organisation, led by reformed offenders – there are around 8 million people on the Government’s Offender Index.