Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and how it affects your school

Current law

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (the Act) states that, subject to certain exceptions, a person with a criminal record who has not re-offended during a specified period will not be required to disclose their previous convictions. Accordingly, they will be entitled to hold themselves out as having a clean record.

Why change?

The Government has announced changes to the Act which will reduce the amount of time a person will be required to disclose any previous convictions. It is believed this will help reduce the likelihood of people re-offending by helping them to return to work more quickly.

The change

From 10 March 2014, the length of time a person will need to disclose a previous conviction will be the length of their sentence plus an additional specified period. For example, a person who receives a custodial sentence of two and a half years, will, after 10 March, have to disclose the conviction for the period of the sentence plus a further four years, a total of six and a half years. In comparison, prior to 10 March, a person with the same custodial sentence would be required to disclose it for ten years from the date of conviction.

Schools

Although the amount of time that a person has to disclose a conviction will be reduced, the exceptions to the Act have not changed. This means that any employees who work with children are still required to disclose what would normally be considered a “spent” conviction.

Schools will therefore still be entitled to ask employees if they have any previous convictions whether spent or not. Of course, these would be highlighted in any enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check which should be carried out for all new employees (including a “barred list” check).

Future convictions

Once a person is employed they often don’t declare convictions which they may receive during employment. There is no requirement to regularly update DBS checks during employment (for example, through the DBS update service).

Best practice

We recommend requiring employees to disclose details of any conviction or any allegation which involves harm to children, which occur during the course of their employment. To ensure this can be enforced, the obligation to disclose should be a condition of an employee’s contract of employment.

For further information on any of the above, please contact our Education team.

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