Disregarding convictions for decriminalised sexual offences

Application form and guidance notes on applying for disregard of convictions for decriminalised sexual offences.



The coalition government made a commitment in 2010 to ‘change the law so that historical convictions for consensual gay sex with persons aged 16 or over will be treated as ‘spent’ and will not show up on criminal records checks’. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 establishes powers to meet that commitment. 

Under the provisions of Chapter 4 of Part 5 of the Act (s.92-101), the Home Secretary may disregard certain convictions (which includes cautions, warnings and reprimands) for decriminalised consensual sex offences. The Act received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012 and these provisions were commenced on 1 October 2012.

Under these provisions, individuals may apply to the Home Secretary for a formal disregard of their convictions. If the Home Secretary considers that a disregard is appropriate, those convictions disregarded will be deleted or annotated and will no longer be disclosed, including in Criminal Records Bureau certificates or in court proceedings.

The offences that criminalised consensual sex between men over the age of consent were mainly sections 12 and 13 of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA). The provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act encompass these offences, as well as corresponding offences under earlier legislation replaced by the SOA and offences charged via gateway provisions in service law, such as the Army Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957.

The Home Office application handling process was launched on 1 October 2012. Home Office officials will, on receipt of an eligible application, correspond with relevant data controllers to identify any relevant official records which may assist the Home Secretary in reaching a decision. In the event that the final decision is to disregard a conviction, the Home Secretary will request that data controllers delete, or where deletion is not possible, annotate all relevant records.

For all enquiries, please email or write to Chapter 4 Applications, SPPU, 4th Floor Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF.

The application form and guidance notes for applicants are available to download below.