Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Get Your Fingers Out

Published 14 November 2013

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 - Commons Library

"Research publications › Research briefings‎

Standard notes SN01841. Authors: Sally Lipscombe."

"The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 aims to give those with convictions or cautions the chance – in certain circumstances – to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.

Under the Act, eligible convictions or cautions become “spent” after a specified period of time known as the “rehabilitation period”, the length of which varies depending on how the individual concerned was dealt with. Prison sentences of over 30 months are excluded from the scope of the Act and can therefore never become spent. The rehabilitation periods for other types of sentence vary according to whether the person was cautioned or convicted and, if the latter, the type of sentence imposed. Rehabilitation periods will generally be shorter for offenders aged under 18 when they were convicted.

Once the conviction or caution becomes spent, the offender is regarded as rehabilitated and (for most purposes) is treated as if he had never committed the offence.

However, there are a number of exceptions to this general approach. For example, for some types of employment a person can be required to disclose details of both unspent and spent convictions or cautions.

The Government has recently legislated (via section 139 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) to reform the 1974 Act in two key ways. The first key change is to extend the scope of the Act to cover custodial sentences of up to 48 months, and the second is to change the length of some of the rehabilitation periods (in most cases by reducing them).

The Act received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012 but section 139 has not yet been commenced and so is not yet in force. The Government had initially indicated that section 139 would be commenced in spring 2013; however, in February 2013 the offender rehabilitation charity Unlock said that it had been notified by the Government that section 139 would not now be commenced until November 2013. In answer to a PQ in October 2013, the Government said that it was working through some significant business and technical issues regarding implementation that were required to be resolved before commencement. It said that it aimed to have the reforms in place at the earliest possible point."



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