On 28 October 2023, a significant amendment took place as reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 came into force. These changes are set to have far-reaching implications for individuals with historic criminal convictions, often referred to as ‘spent’ convictions. As an employer, it is essential to stay updated on these reforms, as they reshape the landscape of rehabilitation and reintegration for employees with a criminal record.
Old vs. New Rehabilitation Periods
The imposed amendments to the rehabilitation periods are as follows;
Old Rehabilitation Periods:
- Community Order: One year beginning with the last day on which the order had effect.
- Custody of six months or less: Two years.
- Custody of more than six months and up to 30 months: Four years.
- Custody of more than 30 months and up to four years: Seven years.
- For offences with custodial sentences of more than four years, the conviction was never spent.
New Rehabilitation Periods:
- Community Order: The last day on which the order had effect.
- Custody of one year or less: One year.
- Custody of more than one year and up to four years: Four years.
- Custody of more than four years: Seven years.
It is important to note that convictions for serious sexual, violent, or terrorist offenses continue to never be spent. Additionally, stricter disclosure rules will persist for jobs that involve working with vulnerable people, requiring enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
In addition, the time periods detailed above relate to offenders who are over 18 at the time of conviction. The period of required disclosure is altered (and slightly lower) where the offender was under 18 at the time of conviction. This recognition is said to acknowledge that young offenders, due to the fact they are often influenced excessively by circumstance, may have a different path toward rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Aim of the Amendments
Prior to the reforms, some offenders were required to disclose their sentences for the rest of their lives. This created a system whereby individuals who, for example, had offended decades ago in their youth, had received non-custodial sentences, and had not re-offended were still required notify employers of their record. These individuals were often put at a disadvantage within the employment field and overlooked for positions they were duly skilled to undertake. The reforms aim to rectify this argued inequity by providing a more balanced approach to disclosure.
Considerations for Re-Offenders
The new rehabilitation periods are extended in the event of re-offending during the declaration period. Any new conviction attracts its own disclosure period, and both the previous conviction and new conviction need to be declared until the end of the original conviction's active period or, if later, the end of the new disclosure period applied to the more recent conviction. This underscores the importance of individuals with a criminal record avoiding further entanglements with the law to fully benefit from the reforms.
The reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 are a significant step towards reintegrating ex-offenders into society and aim to reduce the cycle of reoffending. By shortening rehabilitation periods for most convictions and addressing the consequences of lifelong disclosure, the government hopes to open doors to employment.