Speaking to a range of people from employers, training providers and even people with a conviction it is very clear that so many people do not know what a spent conviction is, when a conviction becomes spent and what the term actually means.
So, let’s start with what does the term mean? A spent conviction is when enough time has passed since the offence for the individual to be considered ‘rehabilitated’ this length of time differs depending on the sentence given, it is not related to the crime…only the sentence handed down in court, the spent date also goes from the date of the court appearance not the crime.
Once this spent date has passed it will no longer appear on a basic DBS check and more importantly a person does not have to disclose it when asked by a training provider or an employer, this will still come up on an enhanced DBS check however it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a spent conviction – unless there is a safeguarding concern.
So, when is your conviction spent? Unlock has a very helpful calculator here: Unlock Criminal Record Disclosure Calculator
An unspent conviction is one where the allotted time has not passed, however there are some important things to understand….first of all just because a conviction is unspent does not mean that a person has not put a huge amount of effort into rehabilitating their life, that they have not changed their situation completely, their social circle, how they spend their spare time and their relation to substances and certainly does have any connection to their likelihood to reoffend.
The system states that there is a definite amount of time each individual will need to be rehabilitated – but one thing is always consistent when it comes to people – and that is that we are all very very different. One person may spend 6 months in prison and be determined to change instantly on release, someone else may take numerous trips before they decide to turn their life around. Which again underlines the importance of a conversation with an individual – we cannot just trust the spent date as a magical day when a person will no longer consider breaking the law.
Anyone who has been given a sentence of 4 years or more will never have their conviction become spent – so they will always have to share that information no matter how much their life has changed and employers are always allowed to hold it against them. This could be a couple of years, 10 or even 20 years post-conviction…and they still need to tick the box and share their conviction.
So, the challenge is to look past the headline – what do you think when someone ticks the unspent conviction box? Do you bother to talk to the candidate about it? Or is it a straightforward no? Just consider the determination, bravery and resilience required for someone to make it through the criminal justice system and then be motivated to look for work….is that the kind of person you want on your team?