Criminal Convictions. How and When to Tell Others

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1 Criminal Convictions How and When to Tell Others You will have a conviction if you have admitted to or been found guilty of a crime. This factsheet looks at what is a criminal conviction, a criminal record and when and how to tell someone about this. You may have a conviction if you have pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of a crime. A criminal record has information about your contact with the police. Employers, insurance companies and visa applications for going abroad sometimes ask about previous convictions. You do not need to tell people about everything that is on your criminal record. If you have a conviction, you may only have to tell someone about it for a certain amount of time. After this time, the conviction becomes known as spent. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2014) sets out when a conviction is spent. It can be difficult telling someone about any previous convictions and there are pros and cons in doing this. This factsheet covers: 1. What is a criminal record? 2. What is a conviction and when does it become spent? 3. What is disclosure and why is it important? 4. What are the pros and cons of disclosing? 5. When do I disclose? 6. How do I disclose? 7. Will criminal convictions affect my insurance? 8. Will criminal convictions affect me going abroad? 1

2 1. What is a criminal record? A criminal record contains information about any contact you have had with the criminal justice system (police, court or prison). This can include details of any offence you have admitted doing, and any offence you have been found guilty of. The information is held on the Police National Computer (PNC). Each local police force may keep their own records. These records can contain nonconviction information, including any contact you have had with the police. This might involve your mental health. This information is protected by the Data Protection Act The Data Protection Act 1998 states how personal information is stored and used. For example, information should be factually correct and should only be used for the reason why it was collected. 2. What is a conviction and when does it become spent? You will have a conviction if you have pleaded guilty to a criminal offence or if you have been found guilty of an offence. The following are not criminal convictions: Simple caution Final warning Reprimand ASBOs (Antisocial Behaviour Order) Fixed penalty notices e.g. speed camera fines, littering, petty shoplifting Points on your driving licence Although these are not convictions, they will be on your criminal record on police computers. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2014) says some criminal convictions become spent. This means they are ignored after a certain amount of time. This time period is known as the rehabilitation period. The rehabilitation period will depend on: the sentence given, not the offence, how old you were when you committed the offence, and how many convictions you have. After the rehabilitation period, you no longer need to mention your convictions if someone asks. There are some exceptions which are in section 5 below. The table below shows how long it takes for most sentences, orders or warnings to become spent.

3 Prison sentences and community orders have buffer periods. This means the time it takes for the sentence to be spent starts from when your sentence ends. Other convictions and penalties, such as a fine and hospital order do not have buffer periods. This means the time it takes for the sentence to be spent starts from the date you are convicted (admitting guilt or being found guilty). 2 Sentence, order or warning Absolute discharge Caution (conditional) Caution (simple) Community order* Conditional discharge order Detention and training order (DTO) under 6 months Detention and training order (DTO) more than 6 months Hospital order (section 37 or section 37/41 of the Mental Health Act) Prison sentence under 6 months Prison sentence more than 6 months and up to 2 ½ years Prison sentence more than 2 ½ years and up to 4 years Prison sentence of over 4 years or a public protection sentence Suspended sentence Becomes spent instantly after 3 months or when the order ends (whichever is earlier) instantly after 1 year; or after 6 months if under 18 when convicted or when the sentence was given the length of the order 1 year after the order expires for 12-14year olds; after 3 ½ years for 15-17year olds 1 year after the order expires for 12-14year olds; after 5 years for 15-17year olds the length of the order after 2 years; or after 18 months if under 18 when convicted or when the sentence was given after 4 years; or after 2 years if under 18 when convicted or when the sentence was given after 7 years; or after 3 ½ years if under 18 when convicted or when the sentence was given Never spent Based on the length of the prison sentence, not the length it was suspended for 3 *If the community order has no end date, the rehabilitation period is 2 years from the date of conviction. Are there any convictions or cautions that I do not need to disclose? There are filtering guidelines that mean you do not need to disclose all convictions or cautions. This also means these will not be on your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate. This depends on the type of caution or conviction, how long ago it was and how old you were at the time. 4

4 The guidelines say there are some convictions and cautions that the police need to consider for your DBS check. These include: some violent and sexual offences, offences related to supplying drugs, and offences relating to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. The police will take all convictions resulting in going to prison (including suspended sentences) into account on a DBS check What is disclosure and why is it important? Disclosure means telling someone that you have been in the criminal justice system and have a conviction. There are some times when you may have to disclose: applying for work, getting insurance, and sometimes when going abroad. It can be difficult telling someone about your convictions. This can be harder if you have many convictions and have a mental illness. Some employers may not employ people with a criminal record, maybe because of the type of work they do. However, it could be because they are treating you unfairly. There are employers that are happy to hire people with a criminal history and mental illness. If you do not disclose unspent convictions when you are asked, your employer might find out and could sack you for lying. Your employer could take legal action against you. For some jobs, the employer will need you to have a criminal record check. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) do these checks. The DBS has replaced the old Criminal Record Bureau (CRB). They produce certificates which might show your contact with the criminal system. You might have to go through a DBS check if a job involves working with children or vulnerable adults. If an employer does carry out DBS checks, then they have to have a policy about employing ex-offenders. They should tell you about this policy. You can ask to see it, or it may be on the company s website. You can get more information on DBS checks in our Criminal Record Checks factsheet from Or call and ask for the information to be sent to you. It is probably best to be honest about your history from the start. It s good to show an employer you are open about your history. The pros and cons of disclosing are looked at in the next part of this factsheet.

5 4. What are the pros and cons of disclosing? There are advantages and disadvantages of disclosing your previous convictions. It can be very difficult telling someone that you have criminal convictions, but there are more advantages to disclosing than not. Advantages and disadvantages of disclosing (we are using disclosing to an employer as an example) Advantages I won t need to worry that my employer will find out later. They could start disciplinary proceedings against me for not telling them. The employer may have more respect for me if I m honest about my record. I ll feel better about myself for being honest. It won t cause a problem if someone else tells the employer about my record. Disadvantages If I tell the employer I might not get the job. It may take longer to get a job. I ll find it difficult to tell the employer. My employer can t prosecute me for not telling. Advantages and disadvantages of NOT disclosing e.g. to an employer Advantages I may get a job quicker. Disadvantages I ll always be worrying that my employer may find out. Someone else might tell the employer about my record. If I m found out I could face disciplinary proceedings If I m found out I could be prosecuted If I do face disciplinary proceedings, I won t get a good reference so might have difficulty finding another job in the future

6 If I lose my job due to disciplinary proceedings for not disclosing, this may also affect my entitlement to benefits (The Department for Work and Pensions would look at whether you became voluntarily unemployed ) You can see that there are more advantages of disclosing convictions to an employer than deciding not to. 5. When do I disclose? You will not always have to disclose. For example, you don t have to disclose if you are not asked about previous convictions. You do not have to offer the information and not all jobs need criminal record checks. Usually you won t have to disclose spent convictions unless you are applying for one of the jobs below: Working with children or vulnerable adults Healthcare National security Taxi driving Finances The law This is because these jobs are not covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2014). When do I disclose to an employer? When applying for work, you will probably need to do an application form and interview. Should I disclose on an application form? It is a good idea to disclose as soon as possible, such as on an application form. If the application asks about previous convictions, it might be best to say yes see covering letter or yes prepared to discuss at interview. By including a covering letter, you can explain the situation. For example: your circumstances, type of offence, any experience, and skills and positive qualities you have to offer the employer.

7 You could decide to tell the employer about your mental health too. If you were unwell at the time of the offence, this could help to explain your situation. It is important to understand there are restrictions on what an employer can ask about your health. For example, an employer should not ask general health questions on application forms. You can get more information on telling an employer about your mental health in our Work and Mental Illness factsheet from Or call and ask for a copy to be sent to you. Do I disclose during an interview? You could talk about your conviction during an interview. This could help as your potential employer will meet you, before hearing about the conviction. However, you might find it difficult disclosing in person. You could write a letter, as mentioned above, and either read this out or hand it to the interviewer(s). Do I disclose when they offer me the job? You might feel there is no point in telling an employer about previous convictions until you know they are offering you a job. They will probably ask you about any previous convictions before this point. If the employer first asks you when they are offering you a job, it is important to think about how to tell the employer without risking them withdrawing the offer. It is your decision to disclose previous convictions. There are lots more benefits in disclosing to an employer (see section 4 above) and an employer should respect you for doing this. 6. How do I disclose? You should make sure the employer understands that having a previous conviction does not mean you are: risky, unreliable or unsuitable for the job. It is important to focus on the positives, such as your skills and abilities, and that your crimes are in the past. You might want to: Point out if the offence was related to certain circumstances. You might have been ill at the time, and maybe you are now well and are receiving treatment. Focus on how things have changed. You might have been young when convicted, you have since grown up and now have responsibilities.

8 Speak generally. Don t go into detail about the offence(s). If you have more than one conviction, you could group them together. For example, I have four offences that are all theft related. Mention anything you have achieved since your conviction. Perhaps you have started a family, got some qualifications, got some help for your mental health. If the conviction is not relevant to the job, ask the employer to consider you for your ability, not your past. If you have spent time in prison, you could: Tell the employer how you have made the most of your time. For example, if you went to education, offending behaviour programmes, or got help for your mental health. Say you have decided to find employment rather than returning to crime. Get a character reference to show an employer that you are right for the job. You could get this from a professional such as probation officers or healthcare staff. It is important to remember that if you are not offered a job, it might not be because of your convictions, so don t give up trying! Most employers will give you feedback if you were not successful at interview. You could ask the employer for feedback on why you were unsuccessful. Research shows that as many as 1 in 10 organisations with experience of employing ex-offenders would actively try to employ ex-offenders. 6 Exoffenders are seen as being as good as or sometimes better than other employees, with relevant skills and life experience. 7. Will criminal convictions affect my insurance? If you are asked about previous convictions, you have to disclose criminal convictions which are unspent according to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2014). 7 It includes the convictions of everyone covered by the insurance, such as partners and children. Some insurers might refuse to offer you insurance if you have unspent convictions, charge you more, or set special terms. Not disclosing unspent convictions may be illegal. Your insurance policy might be cancelled, premiums could increase and you would not always be protected by the insurance. This means the company may not pay out on a claim. If they refuse to pay out, you may be able to challenge this. Firstly, make a complaint to the insurer, perhaps you didn t know you had to tell them about your convictions. If you are unhappy with their response, you could contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Their contact details are below.

9 Unlock, the National Association of Reformed Offenders, have a list of insurance brokers who specialise in insurance for people with unspent convictions. Their contact details are in Useful Contacts at the end of this factsheet. 8. Will criminal convictions affect me going abroad? The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (updated 2014) only covers England and Wales. It does not apply in other countries. 8 This means your convictions are not considered to be spent by other countries. Some countries have entry restrictions and you may need to apply for a visa to go there. Countries have different entry requirements so it is best to check with their Embassy. For example, if you want to go to the United States (US), UK residents can apply under the Visa Waiver Program. This form asks if you have been arrested for certain offences, have previous convictions and it also asks about your mental health. If you have been arrested and/or convicted of certain offences, you may be unable to travel under this program. You would need to apply for a visa, which can be a long process. The organisation Unlock has further information about travelling abroad. Their details are in the Useful Contacts section of this factsheet. What if I currently have licence conditions or am serving a community order? You may have been released from prison and are currently on license, or serving a community order. You will need to speak to your Offender Manager at Probation to get permission to travel. You can find more information on about: Criminal Record Checks Prison Planning for release Work and Mental Illness Or Call and ask for a copy to be sent to you. Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) They can look at complaints about most financial issues, such as insurance, banking and mortgages. Telephone: (free from landlines) or (from a mobile) (Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-1pm)

10 Address: The Financial Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, London E14 9SR Website: Foreign and Commonwealth Office They have information on travel and living abroad. Telephone: Website: Nacro This is a large ex-offender charity. They have a Resettlement Advice Service. Telephone: (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm) Address: First Floor, 46 Loman Street, London, SE1 0EH Website: Red Kite Learning This is a charity that has made a video called Tell, Don t Tell which follows an ex-offender s journey when looking for employment. Website: Unlock This is an independent charity and membership organisation, led by reformed offenders. Their website has lots of information for ex-offenders. Telephone: Address: Maidstone Community Support Centre, Marsham Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1HH Website: 1 Liberty. (2009). Retention of your criminal records and other information. [Accessed August 2012]. 2 Gov.uk (2014). Guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act : [Accessed May 2015]. 3 Unlock. (2015). Suspended prison sentence. [Accessed May 2015]. 4 The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2013, 2013 No. 1198, Statutory Instrument 5 Unlock (2015), What will be filtered by the DBS? [Accessed May 2015]. 6 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) (2007). Employing exoffenders to capture talent. 4C4212CC4EFA/0/empexoffndcaptalpdf.pdf%20 [Accessed May 2015] 7 Unlock. (2013). Insurance and convictions- a simple guide. [Accessed May 2015]. 8 As note 4

11 Rethink Mental Illness 2014 Last updated May 2015 Next update May 2017 Version number 2 This factsheet is available in large print. Last updated 01/10/2010

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