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Understanding if a conviction is spent/unspent

What does it mean to be convicted of a crime?

To be convicted of a crime means that in a court of law, someone has been found guilty of a criminal offence. There are many kinds of criminal offences. For example, theft, murder, driving offence, sexual assault, white-collar crime, drug possession and so on.

Court stock

A table below will give you an idea of the different kind of offences and how the seriousness / significance of the criminal offence is ranked, or to give an idea of what category they fall into.

*The below table does not include all punishable offences.

It is important to note that Work Coaches do not need to be concerned with the offence committed but only with the barriers that come with being convicted of this offence. The seriousness or class of the crime will give the work coach an idea of how significant the barriers to employment may be and what the ramifications are.

Spent and unspent convictions are part of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Knowing the difference between these two is helpful for work coaches and it helps them decipher whether legally a criminal offence needs to be disclosed to an employer upon application for a job position.

What is a spent conviction?

A spent conviction is one that when a basic criminal record check is submitted, the conviction will no longer appear on this check. This is part of the rehabilitation of offender’s act, it helps people move past their criminal conviction once they have served their sentence out. If the employer is doing a standard or enhanced criminal record check it is possible that the conviction will show on the check, but it will be noted that it is spent.

A spent conviction means that although a customer will not have to disclose it to employers or disclose it if they were applying for insurance, the police will still have a record of this conviction.

Unlock have an amazing tool which a customer can use to see if their conviction is spent or when/if it will be spent.

Example – If they are an adult and their prison sentence was less than or equal to 6 months, after their sentence plus 2 years, their conviction will become spent.

Unlock also have a quick and handy article to explain what shows up on a basic criminal record check.

What is an unspent conviction?

An unspent conviction is one that will come back on all criminal record checks whether it be basic/enhanced or standard.

An unspent conviction means that the length of the sentence given still affects whether this conviction needs to be disclosed. Some offences will never be unspent due to how long was given to the individual.

If asked, an unspent conviction must be disclosed when a customer is applying for a job, but it does not mean that an employer will not take you on! See below some logos of organisations that will take people with unspent convictions on. An unspent conviction also must be disclosed if asked to landlords, when making a mortgage application and applying for insurance etc. This really can affect an ex-offender’s ability to move past their conviction and re-integrate into society.

Example - If an individual spent over 4 years in prison, it will never be spent. If the individual served over 6 months and less than/equal to 30 months in prison and they are within 4 years of post-imprisonment their conviction will not yet be spent. It will be spent after it has been 4 years post finishing their sentence.


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