• If you’re still under 18 when your punishment finishes, you might need support to get back on track
  • Your rights apply all the time you are in contact with the police, or in detention, and afterwards
  • Where you will live and what you will do might all be worrying you – knowing your rights will help

The thought of leaving detention, or getting back to normal after your sentence is over, might be just as worrying and confusing as when you were first in trouble. You may find that you need extra help to get  back into school if you were in detention, get somewhere to live or get a job, but there are people and organisations who will help you.

If you end up spending time in a Young Offender Institution or Secure Training Centre after being in trouble with the police, right from the start, you should be helped to prepare for life once you’re released.

If you get a formal punishment, which could include a caution, and any time you spend in Youth Detention Accommodation, these will be part of a criminal record. All the details will be kept on the National Police Computer until you are 100 years old.
If you’ve been in Youth Detention Accommodation, you might be worried about where you will live when you come out. If you can go back home to live with your family, there is nothing to stop this. If you were having problems at home before you went into detention, or there’s a reason why you can’t go back to your family, the local authority needs to make arrangements for you to have somewhere to live. If you’re under 18, you have the same right as any other child to live in good conditions. If you can’t go back to your family when you leave detention and you are at risk of being homeless, the local authority must help you. Find out more in our section At Home.

Unless you have to be in detention, you should be able to carry on with school. If you can’t go to school, a pupil referral unit may be the best place for you to carry on with your education while you’re working through any sentence that doesn’t involve being in detention.

If you were in a Young Offender Institution, a Secure Training Centre or Secure Children’s Home, you should have been able to carry on with your education, so you should be able to go back to school, or to carry on your education some other way. If you can’t go to school for some reason – perhaps because you were permanently excluded, or because it’s too difficult after being in trouble with the police, a pupil referral unit again might be a good option.

A criminal record shouldn’t stop you going to college or university, but you will probably be asked if you have any criminal convictions when you apply. You will only need to tell them about any ‘unspent convictions’ (explained in more detail below), although for some courses, you may need to give information about any convictions you have had, including ‘spent’ convictions. This will be if you might have to work with children or other vulnerable people as part of your course.

You might be asked more details about the conviction and what happened, before the college or university makes a decision about whether you can have a place. If you don’t get a place and you think it’s because of your criminal record, you may be able to appeal the decision.

If you’re over school leaving age, you can look for a job and start work like anyone else. You may be asked about your ‘criminal record’, and you only have to tell employers about anything that isn’t ‘spent’. You may be asked to complete a DBS check. You will have to fill in a form and provide information which identifies you, and the employer will send this off to obtain information about any relevant convictions. This is more likely to be the case if you are hoping to work with children, vulnerable adults, or in a job which requires a good deal of trust.

Spent convictions are old convictions that you don’t have to tell a future employer or education institutions about unless you want to work in a particular kind of job, such as with children or vulnerable adults.

Once your punishment has finished, a record of what happened stays available for a certain period of time – this is called a ‘rehabilitation period’. How long the rehabilitation period lasts depends on how old you were at the time, and what the punishment was.

Time in Detention Rehabilitation Period
4 years or more ongoing – if you are asked, you must always tell an employer about a sentence
30 months – 4 years 3.5 years
6-30 months 2 years
6 months or less 18 months
Detention and Training Order 18 months – 2 years
Youth Rehabilitation Order 6 months

Even if you don’t have to spend time in Youth Detention Accommodation, but have some other kind of punishment, there may be a short rehabilitation period linked to it:

Referral Order  Length of the Order
Fine 6 months
Compensation Order once the compensation is paid in full
Conditional Discharge length of the order
Absolute Discharge none
Youth Conditional Caution 3 months
Youth Caution none

If you apply for a job where old convictions might matter, your employer might ask for enhanced disclosure – to see all your past convictions including ones which are ‘spent’. The employer needs to make sure that the people you will be working with are protected – but this has to be balanced with your right to privacy.

An unspent conviction is one that you have to tell a future employer about. Different types of punishment are unspent for different periods of time. If you were given a custodial sentence and were kept in detention for 4 years or more, you will always have to tell an employer about it.

You may have to tell an organisation about your previous convictions if you want to volunteer with them, especially if you will be working with children or vulnerable adults. You may be asked to complete a DBS check.

The Police National Computer holds information about all your previous convictions until you are 100 years old. You can make a ‘subject access request’ to ACRO Criminal Records Office to find out what your criminal record is. It will cost £10.

Was this page helpful?