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HMRC internal manual

Holding and Movements Assurance Guidance

Registration and approval: after the pre-approval visit: spent convictions

To help those with lesser offences, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which covers England, Scotland and Wales and the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 enables criminal convictions to become spent or ignored after a specific period of time. We are legally barred from including a spent conviction as reason for refusal.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 introduced changes to the periods in which sentences become ‘spent’. As sentencing is now a devolved matter, different rules apply to the three legal jurisdictions of the UK.

The table below set out when a conviction becomes ‘spent’ in England and Wales[1]. It should be noted that the time periods stated in the second and third columns run from the date that the sentence ends (including the licence period):

Sentence / disposal Adults[2] – Period after which a sentence or disposal becomes spent. Young people[3] - Period after which a sentence or disposal becomes spent.
     
Custodial sentence* of over 4 years, or a public protection sentence Never spent Never spent
Custodial sentence of over 30 months (2 ½ years) and up to and including 48 months (4 years) 7 years 3 ½ years
Custodial sentence of over 6 months and up to and including 30 months (2 ½ years) 4 years 2 years
Custodial sentence of 6 months or less 2 years 18 months
Community order or youth rehabilitation order 1 year 6 months

The following table sets out the rehabilitation period for sentences which do not have ‘buffer periods’ and for which the rehabilitation period runs from the date of conviction:

Sentence / disposal Rehabilitation period for adults Rehabilitation period for children and young people
     
Fine 1 year 6 months
Conditional discharge Period of the order Period of the order
Conditional caution and youth conditional caution 3 months or when the caution ceases to have effect if earlier 3 months
Simple caution, youth caution Spent immediately Spent immediately
Compensation order On discharge of the order (i.e. when paid in full) On discharge of the order (i.e. when paid in full)
Binding over order Period of the order Period of the order
Attendance centre order Period of the order Period of the order
Hospital order (with or without a restriction order) Period of the order Period of the order
Referral order Not available for adults Period of the order
Reparation order Not available for adults Period of the order

Full Home Office guidance for England and Wales is available at GOV.UK - rehabilitation of offenders guidance

The table below sets out when a conviction becomes ‘spent’ in Scotland[4] and Northern Ireland[5]. It should be noted that the time periods stated in the second and third columns runs from the date of the conviction in respect of which the sentence was imposed:

Sentence/ disposal Adults Young people
     
Sentence over 30 months Never spent Never spent
A sentence of imprisonment or youth custody or corrective training for a term exceeding 6 months but not exceeding 30 months. 10 years 5 years
A sentence of imprisonment or youth custody for a term not exceeding six months 7 years 3 ½ years
A sentence of Borstal training 7 years (offenders aged 18-21 years) 3 ½ years
A fine 5 years 3 ½ years
Conditional discharge, binding over order 1 year from date of conviction or the end of the order whichever is longer 6 months from date of conviction or the end of the order whichever is longer
Absolute discharge or discharge by a children’s hearing 6 months 6 months

[1] For a full list of offences and their respective rehabilitation periods for England and Wales, reference should be made to section 5 (England and Wales) of the ROA 1974.

[2] 18 and over at the time of conviction or the time the disposal is administered

[3] Under 18 at the time of conviction or the time the disposal is administered

[4] For a full list of offences and their respective rehabilitation periods for Scotland, reference should be made to section 5 (Scotland) of the ROA 1974

[5] For a full list of offences and their respective rehabilitation periods for Northern Ireland, reference should be made to section 6 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978