Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 | Nacro

Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974


Changes to criminal record disclosure law came into force on 28th October 2023. These changes reduce the length of time that community sentences and most custodial sentences need to be disclosed.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) primarily exists to support the rehabilitation into employment of people with convictions who have stopped offending and wish to turn their lives around.

The ROA allows all cautions and most convictions to be considered ‘spent’ after a specified period of time, legally referred to as the rehabilitation period – but in practice it is a disclosure period. The length of the rehabilitation period varies according to the sentence or disposal given.

To reduce reoffending and enable people to move forward in their lives, we know how vital it is that someone can access work, education, and secure housing. Yet having to disclose a criminal record for years can be a barrier to this. We welcome these changes and hope that by shortening the length of time a person is required to disclose certain sentences, some of these barriers will be removed.

The changes which came into effect on 28 October 2023 are as a result of amendments made through the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Act 2022.

To support individuals with this transition, and for employers to navigate the new legislation, we have created three guides to download:


Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2023)

Highlighting the key changes of the updated ROA, what this means for individuals and explaining which convictions are considered ‘spent’ and the associated time frames. Download here.


What do I need to disclose?

Outlining the information individuals are legally required to disclose for particular roles and sectors they may be looking for work in. Download here.


What criminal record information can I obtain?

Guidance for employers about recruiting individuals with a criminal record and the information they’re allowed to request. Download here.


SPENT poster 

Summarising the changes, Our Spent Poster sets out the time it takes for main current sentences to become ‘spent’. Download here.


Visit all our guides in our publications library, or alternatively, individuals and business can contact our Criminal Record Support Service for free, confidential advice.

Call: 0300 123 1999
Or see our Criminal Record Support Service information

Whilst we welcome these changes, the criminal record disclosure regime remains overly complex, often arbitrary, and difficult to navigate for individuals, employers and everyone involved. We believe a full review of the criminal record disclosure regime is the necessary next step to allow a fairer, more sustainable system.