In the course of our Spent Convictions campaign work, it has come to our attention that many people do not realise that a Spent Convictions scheme already exists for anyone who committed an offence before their eighteenth birthday. Here are some details:
Section 258 of the Children Act 2001 provides that offences committed by those under eighteen years of age can be expunged from the record once certain conditions are met. So, where a person has been found guilty of an offence and:
- the offence was committed before they reached the age of eighteen years
- the offence is not one required to be tried by the Central Criminal Court (such as murder or rape)
- three years have elapsed since the conviction, and
- the person has not been dealt with for another offence in that three-year period
then that person will be treated as a person who has not committed or been charged with or prosecuted for or found guilty of or dealt with for that offence. In other words, your conviction will become spent.
Q. Fantastic! How do I apply?
You don't have to! Criminal records for offences committed when under the age of eighteen become spent on an automatic basis in this jurisdiction - provided you meet the requirements detailed above, that is. (There is no requirement to make an application to the Court to have the conviction declared spent.)
Q. What? I've been declaring a minor conviction from 2006, when I was 16, on all job application forms!
Well, that was probably unnecessary! For more detailed information, see the IPRT Briefing on Criminal Records for offences committed aged under 18 years.
Q. Does that mean I won't have to declare my conviction(s) if I want to travel or work abroad?
No. For international travel, you still have to declare all convictions where it is required by the other state. (Irish legislation only covers this jurisdiction.)
However, having a conviction doesn't usually mean that you are automatically barred from entering or working in another country. It generally means that you will have to attend an interview at the relevant embassy, and the decision on whether or not to grant you a visa follows this interview. It can be a slow process, however, and further documentation is often required, so do apply in good time. Being able to demonstrate that you have moved on from past offending behaviour is very important. It all depends on the rules and regulations of each country, so contact the relevant embassy to find out more.
Q. Is there any Spent Convictions Scheme for offences committed when aged over 18?
Yes. The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, which applies to convictions received as an adult (aged over 18), commenced at the end of April 2016. For information on whether the Spent Convictions legislation applies to you, click here.