Ministry of Justice
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Reforms to help reduce reoffending come into force

Reforms which will cut the amount of time some offenders need to disclose details of any low level convictions will come into effect next month, Justice Minister Simon Hughes said today.

The move is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling reoffending so that offenders can turn their back on a life of crime and can get back into honest work.

However, all offenders will still always have to declare previous convictions when applying for jobs in sensitive workplaces like schools and hospitals or working with people in vulnerable circumstances. The most serious offenders will continue to have to declare their convictions for the rest of their lives when applying for any job.

Ministry of Justice research shows that former offenders who gain employment are less likely to reoffend.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:

“The Coalition government is committed to making sure that offenders take responsibility for their actions. But we also need to make sure that ex-offenders are able to contribute to society by getting an honest job and putting their offending behind them.

“These reforms will help guarantee the continued safety of the public. They will also give offenders who have served their sentence a fair chance of getting their lives back on track.”

These reforms, which will come into affect on Monday 10 March 2014, will also change the way some rehabilitation periods are set so that they are fairer and reflect better the seriousness of the sentences imposed.

Under the new system, rehabilitation periods for community orders and custodial sentences will comprise the period of the sentence plus an additional specified period, rather than all rehabilitation periods starting from the date of conviction as it is under the current regime. So, for an example, an adult offender sentenced to two and a half years custody, who would previously have had to declare their criminal conviction for ten years from the date of conviction, will now have to disclose their conviction for the period of the sentence plus a further four years (giving a total rehabilitation period of 6.5 years).

Under the reforms the rehabilitation periods will change to:

For custodial sentences:

Sentence length Current rehabilitation period (applies from date of conviction) New rehabilitation period is period of sentence plus the ‘buffer’ period below which applies from end of sentence)
0 - 6 months 7 years 2 years
6 - 30 months 10 years 4 years
30 months - 4 years Never spent 7 years
Over 4 years Never spent Never spent

For non-custodial sentences:

Sentence Current rehabilitation period (applies from date of conviction) Buffer period (will apply from end of sentence)
Community order (& Youth Rehabilitation Order) 5 years 1 years
Sentence Current period New period
Fine 5 years 1 years (from date of conviction)
Absolute discharge 6 months None
conditional discharge, referral order, reparation order, action plan order, supervision order, bind over order, hospital order Various – mostly between one year and length of the Order Period of order

As with the current scheme, the above periods are halved for persons under 18 at date of conviction (except for custodial sentences of up to 6 months where the buffer period will be 18 months for persons under 18 at the date of conviction).

We have previously announced radical reforms to the way offenders are rehabilitated, to finally tackle our stubbornly high reoffending rates that currently see almost half of all prisoners commit further crime within a year of release.

The reforms will transform the way offenders are rehabilitated in the community. Chaotic offenders with complex problems need support to turn their lives around, combined with proper punishment.

Graham Beech, Acting Chief Executive of Nacro, said:

“Nacro welcomes the long overdue reforms to the Act because it will remove some of the difficulties that people face when they try to secure education, employment and insurance. It cannot be right that someone who made a mistake in their teens – the only act of criminality they’ve ever been involved in – is prevented from entering the labour market when they are in their thirties and forties because they still have to disclose the conviction to a prospective employer.

“Whilst some ex-offenders will still face barriers, and those who’ve served more than four years in prison will still need to disclose their previous convictions, many people who have successfully managed to put their offending behind them will no longer face the same obstacles in moving their lives on because of an age-old criminal record which has continued to hang around their necks. They will be hugely relieved to hear that these legislative changes have finally come into effect.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 were introduced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012. For occupations on the Exceptions Order applicants and employees have to disclose unprotected cautions and convictions, regardless of whether they are ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’.
  2. Ministry of Justice research on the impact of employment on re-offending rates
  3. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, after a specified period of time most convictions and cautions become spent. The offender is then considered to be rehabilitated. The offenders do not have to reveal their spent convictions or cautions to an employer unless the occupation is covered by the Exceptions Order, for example where the individual will be working with children.
  4. If asked to disclose convictions, an unspent conviction must always be declared by the individual. This will include a recent conviction where the specified rehabilitation period has not come to end or a conviction for a serious offence, for example, where the sentence of imprisonment is over four years.
  5. People can learn about how the justice system works, see how judges reach their sentencing decisions and find out about how courts in their area are performing at the Open Justice website
  6. For more information, please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536. Follow us on twitter @MoJGovUK.

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