What is a Spent Conviction under UK Law

Under UK law, a spent conviction is a conviction which has become spent under the laws of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974.  According to legislation.gov.uk, which provides a database of all UK laws of the past and currently in legislation, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is an act designed to rehabilitate offenders not convicted of any serious offense for periods of years, penalize unauthorized disclosure of previous convictions, and amend the defamation law.

For a conviction to become spent, a person must have served the terms of his conviction, met the requirements of rehabilitation, and be considered rehabilitated.  This means that once a person is rehabilitated for a conviction, that conviction then becomes “spent.”  A spent conviction no longer applies.

A spent conviction cannot be used in any criminal proceedings; criminal proceedings are not exclusive to court proceedings.  This means a person cannot be asked to reveal any information about the spent conviction, including information related to the offense, preliminary proceedings, and any proceedings after conviction such as an appeal.  If the rehabilitated person is asked to reveal any information about a spent conviction, he does not need to answer. 

All spent convictions are excluded from criminal proceedings.  A person cannot answer questions about another person’s spent conviction.  If he is asked to, he does not need to answer.

Having a spent conviction cannot cause discrimination against a person in terms of employment, nor can it be cause for termination or a reason not to hire.  A person does not have to disclose a spent conviction when seeking employment.

Any of the above scenarios can be made exception to by order of the Secretary of State.  However, if a person is required to answer by the Secretary of State, he will not be held responsible for his answer.

There are certain convictions which are excluded from becoming spent.  These include imprisonment for life, youth imprisonment of more than 30 days, preventive detention, or a sentence of detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure or for life.  According to an article on “Internet Law Book Reviews,” a sentence of detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure or for life refers to sentencing of youth under age 18.  This sentence is the equivalent of imprisonment for life for an adult.

There is a specific period of time which is considered the rehabilitation period.  It is after this period of time that a person is considered rehabilitated.  This means that the person must not be convicted of a serious offense within the rehabilitation period.  This period differs according to the nature of the offense and the time served.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974 provides for the rehabilitation of convicted criminals and prevents the unauthorized disclosure of information regarding rehabilitated criminals.  Spent convictions are the product of a crime which has been committed by a person who is now rehabilitated for that crime and unlikely to repeat it.  Convictions can become spent given the conviction is rehabilitative, the sentence is adequately served, and the sentence adheres to conditions governing rehabilitation.