When Is My Prison Sentence Spent?

When is my prison sentence spent? This is a crucial question for many individuals looking to move on from their past convictions. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 outlines the periods after which various types of sentences become “spent,” meaning they no longer need to be disclosed in most situations. This article delves into the specifics of these periods based on the length and type of sentence.

When is my prison sentence spent

What Does "Spent" Mean?

When a conviction becomes spent, it no longer needs to be disclosed in many circumstances, such as when applying for most jobs or insurance. However, certain professions and roles may still require disclosure of spent convictions.

Type of Sentence Time Taken to Become Spent
Prison (including suspended sentences) Adult (18+) at conviction/disposal Young person (U18) at conviction/disposal
Public protection sentence Never spent ** Never spent **
More than 4 years Full sentence + 7 years* Full sentence + 3 ½ years*
More than 12 months and less than or equal to 4 years Full sentence + 4 years Full sentence + 2 years
Less than or equal to 12 months Full sentence + 1 year Full sentence + 6 months
Community order / youth rehabilitation order At the end of the order At the end of the order
* Depending on offence type – some offences remain excluded from rehabilitation ** Unless conditions are removed

Understanding Rehabilitation Periods

The rehabilitation period varies depending on the type and length of the sentence:

  • Prison sentences of less than 12 months: These become spent 12 months after the sentence ends.
  • Prison sentences between 12 months and 4 years: These become spent 4 years after the sentence ends.
  • Prison sentences of more than 4 years: These typically become spent 7 years after the sentence ends, provided the offence is not classified as serious violent, sexual, or terrorist.

Special Cases

Suspended Sentences

Suspended sentences are treated similarly to custodial sentences. The length of the sentence imposed by the court dictates the rehabilitation period, not the period it is suspended for.

Early Release

For those released early on parole, the rehabilitation period is calculated based on the full length of the sentence imposed by the court, not the time actually served.

Youth Offenders

For individuals under 18 at the time of their conviction, rehabilitation periods are generally halved. For example, a detention order of less than 12 months becomes spent 6 months after the sentence ends.


  1. Example 1:

    • A 3-year prison sentence given on 5 May 2021.
    • Released early on 5 May 2023.
    • Sentence ends on 5 May 2024 and becomes spent on 5 May 2028.
  2. Example 2:

    • A 6-month prison sentence in June 2023.
    • Sentence becomes spent in December 2024 (6 months + 1 year).
  3. Example 3:

    • An 8-year sentence for a non-serious offence in February 2017.
    • Sentence becomes spent in February 2032 (8 years + 7 years).

Impact of Recent Changes

Recent legislative changes, effective from October 2023, have shortened the rehabilitation periods for certain sentences. For instance, sentences of over 4 years can now be spent after 7 years if the offence is not categorized under serious violent, sexual, or terrorist acts.

Disclosure Exceptions

While most convictions become spent after their rehabilitation period, there are exceptions. Jobs involving vulnerable groups, legal and financial professions, and roles requiring high security clearance may still require disclosure of spent convictions.


Understanding when a prison sentence becomes spent is crucial for rebuilding life post-conviction. The UK’s Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides a framework, but it is essential to stay informed about recent legislative changes.


  1. When is my prison sentence spent?

    • It depends on the length and type of sentence. Refer to the rehabilitation periods specified.
  2. Does a suspended sentence affect when it becomes spent?

    • No, the rehabilitation period is based on the full length of the suspended sentence.
  3. What happens if I have multiple convictions?

    • The latest rehabilitation period applies if multiple sentences are imposed simultaneously.
  4. How do early releases affect the spent date?

    • The spent date is based on the full sentence length, not the time served.
  5. Are there any changes to the law recently?

    • Yes, as of October 2023, certain sentences over 4 years can be spent after 7 years.
  6. Do youth offenders have different rehabilitation periods?

    • Yes, rehabilitation periods are typically halved for offenders under 18.
  7. Can serious offences ever become spent?

    • No, serious violent, sexual, or terrorist offences generally cannot become spent.
  8. What should I do if I need proof of a spent conviction?

    • You may need to provide evidence of completion of any imposed penalties or orders.
  9. How does a detention order for youths become spent?

    • It depends on the length of the detention sentence and the nature of the offence.
  10. Do fixed penalty notices have rehabilitation periods?

    • No, they do not form part of a criminal record and hence do not have rehabilitation periods.

For more information on the specifics of when your prison sentence becomes spent, you can visit GOV.UK.


Visit our other pages such as getting a mortgage with a criminal history