Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 enables some criminal convictions to become 'spent', or ignored, after a 'rehabilitation period'.

A rehabilitation period is a set length of time from the date of conviction. After this period, some ex-offenders may not need to mention their conviction when doing things like applying for accommodation or a job, although for some jobs you may still be asked to disclose ‘spent’ convictions e.g. if you were applying for a job working with children or vulnerable people.

The Act is more likely to help people with few and/or minor convictions. People with many convictions, especially serious ones, may not benefit from the Act.

Rehabilitation Periods
The length of the rehabilitation period depends on the sentence given - not the offence committed. For a custodial sentence, the length of time actually served is irrelevant: the rehabilitation period is decided by the original sentence. Custodial sentences of more than 2 1/2 years can never become spent.

The following table helps explain rehabilitation periods and when sentences become spent (i.e. do not need to be declared when applying for accommodation, a job etc.):

Sentence Rehabilitation Period Rehabilitation Period
People aged 18 or over when convicted People aged 17 and under when convicted
Prison Sentence of 6 months or less 7 years 3.5 years
Prison sentences or more than 6 months to 2.5 years 10 years 5 years
Borstal (abolished in 1983)  7 years 7 years
Detention Centres (abolished in 1988)  3 years 3 years




community service

combination action plan 

curfew orders

drug treatment and testing

reparation orders

5 years

2.5 years

Absolute discharge

6 months

6 months

With some sentences the rehabilitation period varies 

Sentence  Rehabilitation Period
Probation, supervision, care order, conditional discharge or bind over 1 year or until the order expires (whichever is longer) 
Attendance centre orders 1 year after the order expires
Hospital orders (with or without a restriction order)  5 years or 2 years after the order expires (whichever is longer
Referral Order Once the order expires