Last reviewed 17 November 2023

Over 120,000 former offenders will find it easier to get work and turn their lives away from crime following a change in the law, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, has said.

The changes will significantly reduce the time people with criminal convictions are legally required to declare them to most potential employers after serving their sentence and when applying for courses, insurance and housing.

Under the previous rules, Mr Chalk explained, some offenders needed to disclose their sentences for the rest of their lives, even for crimes committed decades earlier, and this has proved a significant barrier to them getting a job and rebuilding their lives.

Under the new regulations, custodial sentences of four years or more for less serious crimes become “spent” after a seven-year period of rehabilitation, as long as no further offence is committed.

However, offenders who have committed serious sexual, violent or terrorist offences are excluded from these changes to ensure this does not result in an increased risk to the public. Stricter disclosure rules will continue to apply to jobs that involve working with vulnerable people, through standard and enhanced DBS checks.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has also brought in changes that will mean offenders serving shorter sentences for less serious crimes will need to declare their criminal record for shorter periods.

The reforms came into force on 28 October 2023 under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. They will immediately impact thousands of people with previously unspent convictions with nearly 125,000 people sentenced in 2022 set to benefit from these changes.

If an individual re-offends during their rehabilitation period, they will have to disclose both their original and subsequent offences to employers for the duration of whichever rehabilitation period is longer.

Full details of the new rehabilitation periods can be found on the GOV.UK website.