Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA)

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From the 28th of October 2023 custodial sentences of over 4 years that are not already excluded (such as life sentences or sentences of imprisonment for public protection), will become spent for the first time. But, to ensure the protection of the public, the changes don’t apply to persons sentenced to more than 4 years imprisonment following a conviction for any serious violent, sexual, or terrorist offences listed in the Sentencing Act 2020. The conviction will continue to never be spent and therefore will always be disclosed.

In addition, rehabilitation periods for some disposals/sentences will be reduced.

  • Custodial sentences of more than 1 year and up to 4 years will now become spent 4 years after the end of the sentence
  • Custodial sentences of up to 1 year will now become spent 1 year after the end of the sentence
  • Community Orders and Youth Rehabilitation Orders will now become spent at the end of the order


Changes to Filtering Rules (affecting Standard and Enhanced DBS Checks)

Filtering rules that dictate the content of Standard and Enhanced checks will change with the impact of all unspent records always being disclosed. This change will mean that in limited circumstances, some applicants will now see additional unspent records being disclosed.

So, what does this all mean? Well, less information will be disclosed on Basic certificates and more information will be disclosed on Standard and Enhanced certificates. This is because what would have been considered as ‘Unspent’ will now be ‘Spent’ and all unspent convictions will be disclosed on Standard and Enhanced certificates.

Helpful Information

Custodial Offences are reserved for the most serious offences and are imposed when the offence committed is “so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.

Community Orders are the most severe form of non-custodial sentences that courts in England and Wales can impose.

Youth rehabilitation Orders are Court Orders which may be given to young people under the age of 18 years old when they are being sentenced for committing a criminal offence. The order can be made for any period up to 3 years.

If a certificate is dated the 28th of October 2023 or later, then the new rules have been applied. Certificates with any date before the 28th of October will have been processed using the old rules.

The purpose of the ROA is to support ex-offenders to move on with their lives and enable them to contribute to society by having greater access to employment. This is why less information will be disclosed on DBS Basic checks.

Previously, in some limited circumstances, there were records of unspent convictions and cautions that would be disclosed on Basic checks that wouldn’t appear on Standard and Enhanced checks. Ensuring that all unspent records appear on all levels of DBS checks makes the DBS process easier to understand and will ensure recruitment decisions can be made considering all the relevant information. This is why the ROA rules are now being applied to Standard and Enhanced DBS checks.

These changes only apply to England and Wales.

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