Rehabilitation of Offenders Act | Nacro

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2023)



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 Act 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.

Once ‘spent’, the Act treats the person as if they had never been cautioned or convicted of the offence. As a result, the caution or conviction in question does not need to be disclosed by the person when applying for most jobs, educational courses, insurance, housing applications or other purposes, unless the role applied for is ‘exempt’ from the Act (see ‘Exceptions to the Act’). If a role is covered by the Act, the organisation is only legally entitled to carry out a basic DBS check which will reveal all ‘unspent’ cautions and/convictions.

For more information, please download the full publication.


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Our Criminal Record Support Service offers free, confidential advice and guidance on criminal record related issues. We help individuals to understand their rights when asked to disclose a criminal record and how best to approach disclosure. We also help individuals and practitioners to understand the rules relating to criminal records. We can also advocate on a person’s behalf if they have been treated unfairly when trying to access employment, education and training.

To find out more, see our Criminal Record Support Service information.


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If you’re an employer looking for advice about employing people with a criminal recordasking about a criminal record, carrying out a criminal record check or risk assessing a person with a criminal record, our Employer Advice Service provides confidential advice and guidance on criminal record related issues.

We provide free, accessible guides and expert consultation and training for businesses across the UK. We deliver training and consultancy across England and Wales and have clients which include West London NHS Trust, Housing Group Plus, Birmingham City Council, Maximum UK, Middlesborough College, Girlguiding, Dorset NHS Trust, and St Mungos to name a few.

To find out more, see our Employer Advice Service information.