How long do criminal convictions stay on record?

Most employers want to know about a potential employee’s criminal history, if any. It is important to note that, in some situations, an individual has no duty to disclose their criminal record; instead, the onus is on the employer to ask for details. The same is not true for some professionals, however, such as medics and teachers.

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Employers can examine an individual’s criminal record by requesting a DBS search. Even a relatively minor offence, such as shoplifting low value items, can deter an employer from offering a position to an individual. This is even more likely when the conviction relates to a breach of trust or fiduciary duty; moreover, an employer is permitted to take this decision. Someone with a criminal record cannot claim discrimination if they are not offered a job or voluntary position because they have a criminal record. Anyone concerned about the impact their criminal record might have on their prospects can seek support and advice from the social justice charity Nacro.

For different reasons, employers and individuals will be concerned as to how long a criminal conviction remains on a person’s record. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides that some convictions become ‘spent’ after a specific period has elapsed; this is known as the ‘rehabilitation period’. The precise length of the rehabilitation period depends on the offence committed and the relevant wording in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. There is no obligation to disclose a spent conviction when applying for most jobs; however, failure to disclose an unspent conviction, if asked to do so, is a criminal offence.

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Organisations that specialise in handling DBS requests, such as, can provide further details. Essentially, there are four types of criminal record checks:

Basic DBS check

These disclose only unspent convictions.

Standard DBS check

These disclose spent and unspent convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands, apart from anything that is entitled to be filtered under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Enhanced disclosure

These checks disclose the same information as standard checks and the police can also disclose any other information they consider relevant.

Enhanced and barred disclosures

These disclose the same information as enhanced disclosures and show whether the individual is barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

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