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When foreign governments ask for confirmation of your criminal history, most of the time they will be relying on the information disclosed in a Police Conviction Certificate. These certificates are issues through the ACPO Criminal Records Office.

Police Conviction Certificates disclose offences on your criminal record where there has been a finding of guilt, e.g. convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings. However, the retention guidelines for data on the Police Nation Computer include a procedure whereby old and minor findings of guilt can be ‘stepped down’ and access to these records restricted to anyone outside of the police force. When an offence is ‘stepped down’ it will not be disclosed on your Police Conviction Certificate.

Although we are unable to provide specific immigration or foreign travel advice, we can provide advice and assistance in regards to the retention and disclosure guidelines that apply to the databases most commonly relied upon for immigration and visa applications.


These days, when we apply for insurance we are frequently asked if we have any criminal convictions. Insurance companies ask these questions because they believe it affects the ‘risk’ associated in providing insurance. However, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act a convicted person is only obliged to disclose, when asked, any ‘unspent’ convictions when applying for insurance. If a conviction is ‘spent’ in accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act then that spent conviction does not need to be disclosed.

The rules governing when a conviction is to be regarded as ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act are complicated, and if in doubt it is always advisable to seek professional assistance before applying for insurance.

Fixed Penalty Notices and pending prosecutions will generally have to be disclosed if you are asked.

In regards to road traffic convictions, an important distinction must be made between the rehabilitation period until the offence becomes spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and the period until the offence no longer appears on the driving licence records held by the DVLA (endorsements on the licence). For example, a conviction for drink driving that results in a fine will be spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 5 years after the date of conviction, but the offence details will remain endorsed on the driving licence for 10 years, and can only be removed after 11 years. This is an important distinction as an insurance company cannot discriminate against you with the premium they offer if an offence is spent, but only disclosed as part of a driver endorsement (R v DVLA & Another, ex parte Pearson [2002]). Click here for more information.