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Changes set to remove barriers for ex-offenders

Reforms that will cut the amount of time during which offenders need to disclose details of low level convictions will come into effect this month.

Under the new system, which will take effect on 10 March, rehabilitation periods for custodial sentences will made up of the period of the sentence plus an additional “buffer” period that applies from the end of the sentence.

For example, an adult offender sentenced to two-and-a half years in custody will now have to disclose their conviction for the period of the sentence plus a further four-year buffer period. This will give a total rehabilitation period of six-and-a-half years, rather than ten years under the current regime.

Under the new regime, someone who has served a custodial sentence of up to four years will have to disclose the conviction for a maximum of seven years. Custodial sentences of more than four years will always have to be disclosed.

For non-custodial sentences, the buffer period will vary. For a fine, the limit for disclosure will be one year from the date of conviction.

Offenders will always have to declare previous convictions when applying for jobs in sensitive workplaces like schools and hospitals or working with people in vulnerable circumstances. The most serious offenders will continue to have to declare their convictions for the rest of their lives when applying for any job.

Graham Beech, acting chief executive of crime reduction charity Nacro, said: “Whilst some ex-offenders will still face barriers, and those who’ve served more than four years in prison will still need to disclose their previous convictions, many people who have successfully managed to put their offending behind them will no longer face the same obstacles in moving their lives on because of an age-old criminal record which has continued to hang around their necks.”