Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Sentence lengths for custodial and non-custodial sentences and associated rehabilitation periods

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 criminal convictions can become spent or ignored after a rehabilitation period, although they remain on the Police National Computer. The rehabilitation period varies depending on the sentence or order imposed by the court – not the offence.

Custodial sentences of more than two and half years can never become spent.

The following sentences become spent after fixed periods from the date of conviction:
Under the reforms the rehabilitation periods will change to:

For custodial sentences

Sentence LengthCurrent rehabilitation period
(applies from date of conviction)
New rehabilitation period is the period of the sentence plus the 'buffer' period below which applies from the end of the sentence
0 - 6 months7 years2 years
6 - 30 months10 years4 years
30 months - 4 yearsNever spent7 years
Over 4 yearsNever spentNever spent


For non-custodial sentences

SentenceCurrent rehabilitation period
(applies from date of conviction)
Buffer period
(will apply from end of sentence)
Community order
(7 Youth Rehabilitation Order)
5 years1 year



Current period

New period

Fine5 years1 year (from date of conviction)
Absolute discharge6 monthsNone
Action plan order
Bind over order
Conditional discharge
Hospital order
Referral order
Reparation order 
Supervision order
Various - mostly between one year and the length of the orderPeriod 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).