• 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 Length Current 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 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
    (7 Youth Rehabilitation Order)
    5 years 1 year

    Sentence Current period New period
    Fine 5 years 1 year (from date of conviction)
    Absolute discharge 6 months None
    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 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).