The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 came into force on 28th October 2023. The new Act brings some changes that it's useful for organisations to know about, check out this blog for some more information on how the changes affect businesses and ex-offenders.
Whilst the Act covers empowering law enforcement, tackling public nuisances and much more, it also changes the way sentencing is handled, particularly 'spent' and 'unspent' convictions.
Prior to the new Act, if an offender received a custodial sentence of over 4 years this would never become 'spent' and would always show on the individual's criminal record. The new Act, which updates the Offenders Act 1974, now means that with certain convictions where an over 4-year sentence was served these now have the ability to become 'unspent'. This will essentially lift a barrier to employment for thousands of ex-offenders. Other convictions will also be affected including community orders and youth rehabilitation orders.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:
Carrying the weight of life-long criminal records even after serving their time is a huge barrier for many offenders seeking to reintegrate into society and turn away from a life of crime. These reforms will help ex-offenders get the steady income, routine and purpose they need which cuts reoffending and ensures fewer members of the public become victims of crime.
What is a 'Spent' conviction?
A conviction becomes 'spent' when a specified period of time passes since the original conviction took place, after this period of time the slate is effectively 'wiped clean' and in most circumstances, offenders are then not obliged to disclose their conviction to employers and education providers. The 'exceptions order' details roles that may require ex-offenders to disclose a spent conviction including working with children and vulnerable adults, working in the legal sector or working in the financial industry. You can see a guide to the 'exceptions order' here.
What is an 'Unspent Conviction?
'Unspent convictions' are convictions which haven't reached a point where they don't have to be disclosed anymore, so they form part of an individual's criminal record. The rules around when convictions become spent have been updated by the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which you can see here.
What's not covered by the new Act?
As you can imagine, this new update in terms of convictions becoming 'spent' doesn't include things like serious sexual crimes, violence or terrorist offences.
When applying to work within industries with vulnerable adults and children, the current strict disclosure rules will still apply.
Why make the changes?
The new changes should allow for the better rehabilitation of offenders who can now move on from their crimes.
When will conviction become spent?
You can see more about when custodial sentences will become spent by reviewing the new legislation here; https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2022/32/section/193
Do I need to do anything differently if I do DBS checks on my staff?
You don't need to do anything differently, offences will show up on DBS checks as normal with the exception of the new rules around 'spent' and 'unspent' convictions.
Can I withdraw an employee's job offer because they have criminal convictions?
In the UK, employers are generally allowed to consider a job applicant's criminal conviction as part of the hiring process. However, there are legal considerations to ensure fair treatment and avoid discrimination. We'd always suggest you seek legal advice or speak to an HR professional if you're unsure.
You can decline a job applicant based on a criminal conviction if it is relevant to the position and could impact their ability to perform the job. For example, if the role involves working with vulnerable populations, a relevant criminal conviction may be a legitimate reason to reject an applicant.
It's essential to assess each case individually, considering factors such as the nature of the conviction, its relevance to the job, and the rehabilitation efforts made by the applicant. Blanket policies that automatically reject individuals with criminal convictions may be considered discriminatory.
To stay compliant with the law, it's advisable to have clear policies, communicate them transparently to applicants, and ensure that decisions are made based on the specific requirements of the job. Additionally, employers should be aware of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which allows certain convictions to become "spent" after a rehabilitation period. You can see more on the Act here.
Where can I see more about the Act?
Check out the Government factsheet here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-factsheets/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-overarching-factsheet
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/barrier-to-employment-lifted-for-thousands-of-ex-offenders accessed 28th November 2023
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All information within the post is provided for guidance only; always seek your own legal advice.
The information with this post was correct at the time of publishing, November 2023 but may be subject to change.