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The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 was amended on 28 October to reduce the periods of time after which certain offences become "spent" and no longer need to be legally disclosed to an employer.  

The changes follow the Ministry of Justice White Paper in September 2020, and the government estimates that the reforms will affect a large number of offenders, including nearly 125,000 people sentenced in 2022 alone.

Previously some offenders were required to disclose their sentences for the rest of their lives, but now custodial sentences of four years or less, and of more than four years for some less serious crimes, will become "spent" after a period of rehabilitation of up to seven years after the sentence has been served. This is subject to the proviso that no further offence is committed in that period. If someone reoffends during the rehabilitation period, they will have to disclose both their original and subsequent offences to employers for the duration of whichever rehabilitation period is longer.

Convictions for serious sexual, violent or terrorist offences will continue to never be spent, and the stricter disclosure rules that apply to specific jobs will continue to apply.

The new rehabilitation periods are as follows:

  • Community order – the last day on which the order had effect (previously it was one year beginning with the last day on which the order had effect).
  • Custody of six months or less – one year (previously two years).
  • Custody of more than six months and up to four years – four years (previously seven years).
  • Custody of more than four years – seven years (previously never spent).