The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was originally introduced in order to "wipe the slate clean" for minor offenders, after a suitable elapse of "spent" time – usually 7 years.

This was a progressive libertarian idea, aimed at giving – especially younger/ minor – offenders a better chance of securing employment later in life.  (i.e. A  "spent" £1 fine for misguided student drunkeness at University should not then remain as an ongoing CRB punishment impacting upon an individual's career prospects for the remainder of their life).  

The younger offenders targeted at the time of the passage of the original legislation have now matured and many are seeking middle to senior ranking posts, ordinary/basic CRB checks or not.

However, over recent years, a trend has emerged in the Cabinbet Office Public Appointments Unit, general Civil Service management recruitment, local authorities, universities, the Public Sector generally (and its public recruitmment agents) indicating that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to the majority of their advertised posts. Hence "spent" convictions must be declared and subjected to "Enhanced" (i.e. gilt-edged) CRB checks,entirely excluded from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act..

In short,  Public Sector recruitment has steadily exempted itself from compliance with both the spirit and provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

So, either as a Society we should now repeal the now toothless Act and accept that offenders of any age will be CRB scarred for life or, if we are to opt for progressive liberalism, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act should be strengthened to permit "enhanced" CRB check exceptions ONLY in the cases of posts associated directly with national security.  (Child abuse being already covered separately by the register of secual offenders). 

Why is this idea important?

Strenuous efforts by the Criminal Justice system, over many years, to rehabilitate offenders are being frustrated by the frequent inability of sometimes long-past offenders to secure public sector employment in their maturity – due to restrictive application forms and needless “enhanced” CRB checks. An 18 year-old offender may still be “paying the price” of his/her conviction when applying for Public Sector posts 40 years later.  The Act is being rendered redundant by the Public Sector.



4 Replies to “Reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act”

  1. Hello

    I was recently refused employment from HMRC because of my previous spent
    criminal convictions. The post I was applying for was exempt from the
    Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.The spent convictions the last off which was
    in 2004 were several drug offences, drink driving twice and four breaches of
    the peace. No offence was a crime off violence, sex crime or crime of
    dishonesty. The post in question was in the Inland Revenue part of HMRC in a
    call centre.None of my offences were relevant to the the post and I declared
    all of them to HMRC at the interview stage prior to them getting my standard
    disclosure (which included all of my offences despite them not being
    relevant to that post). When I phoned asking for reasons for refusal I was
    specifically told by there recruitment department it was because of my
    previous drugs offences they said otherwise I would have got the job as I
    had done well at the interview. The code of practice by Disclosure Scotland states employers are supposed to look at the relevance  of the offences to the job applied for.

    Extremely concerned by this I contacted my
    MP Stuart Hosie who is raising it with the Government Minister. I completely
    agree with everything I have read. I am a person who after leaving prison on
    a six month sentence in 1997 for drugs offences went back to University and
    turned my life around. I attained a 2.1 Honours degree in Law but I have
    faced may barriers in getting employment because of jobs that are exempt
    from  the Act. Employers are not acting in good faith where they get details
    of spent criminal convictions regardless if they are relevant to you doing
    that job or not. Reform is needed to stop any spent offence being disclosed
    to employers if they are not relevant to the post and a remedy under the law
    available      for wronged parties because there is currently none for
    former offenders who are wrongfully treated by employers who are covered by
    the exemptions to the Act. The reality of my situation is I that I have no
    prospects for jobs that are covered by the exemptions even though i have not
    been convicted off sex offences,crimes of violence or crimes off dishonesty.
    Even though I have turned my life around I am discriminated by employers
    covered by exemptions to the Act quite lawfully. What wider message is this
    ending out? One size does not fit all and reform has been needed for a long
    time except it’s hardly a burning political issue to assist former

    Khalid Ghafoor

  2. I was convicted of offenses in 2006 relating to copyright theft, the production and sale of copyrighted DVD and CD materials, i recieved an 18 month prison sentsance, i got involved in what i thought wrongly at the time was a victimless crime when i fell in to debt after a failed legitimate business, i fully accepted the sentance and later realised that it was a crime of theft like any other so i have no problem with that, when i got out of prison i managed to get a job in a call centre that didn’t ask about any convictions and worked there happilly for over 2 years, however i was made redundant and found that most jobs did require crb checks, my choices became more limited but i found short term work in other csall centres, nearly 7 years have passed since my conviction and i haven’t had a single run in with the law but i can’t find a secure long term employer willing to consider me with this unspent conviction, one call centre employer was very keen to employ me but a client they have a major TV Broadband and phone supplier have a strict policy of not allowing anyone with unspent convictions working on their campaign, i strongly feel that this act should be changed, 10 years is much too long, surely if someone has stayed crime free for 3 years they should be considered rehabilitated, the new government proposal to reduce the time at which a sentence of 30 month or less becomes spent to 4 years would be a major help to me personally, i hope it goes through soon..

  3. I wish MP’s would stop giving false hope. The RoOA does not do its job and its not so much the act as the attitude of prospective employeers. I have had quote from a major education employeer “We don’t employ criminals to my face. From head of a DEPARTMENT despite graded 1 outstanding teacher by this person, “You are not suitable”. once it came to their attention. There were more suitable candidates another, or we do not give feedback as another. As I siad its not the Act that needs reviewing but the attitude of those who believe they are holyier than thou and would never committ an offence!! except for ;;;;;;;;;; which after all is not really an offence is it!! . Having a criminal offence does not necessarily bar you from teaching do me a favour yes it does because of the people I have mentioned. 8 million people have a criminal record, thats a hell of a lot on the dole, now that makes sense does it NOT

  4. The CRB check is the main problem, no employer who can get a hold of your crime history will ever feel the need to take a risk by employing you when they have the choice of finding someone who has a clean CRB, simply because ‘if ‘ you did do something wrong,(however unlikely it may be) they would get into trouble because they knew your history, in fact they could end up losing their jobs. no Changes to the RoO Act will be of any good most of the people that are complaining fall into the RoO Act with spent convictions. The only way is to really ‘wipe the slate clean’ is by only allowing the CRB information only to police and security authorities and not every employer as it stand now.

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