Man Prison Prisoner Silhouette Credit Donald Tong

Can You Join The Armed Forces With A Criminal Record?

No one is perfect and if you want to start fresh with a new job then the Armed Forces might be the perfect path for you.

Man Prison Prisoner Silhouette Credit Donald Tong

You want to join the Armed Forces but you’re worried your criminal record might prevent you from pursuing a new career?

Have no fear, we can help.

No one is perfect and if you want a fresh start with a new job then the Armed Forces might be the perfect path for you.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 exists to "rehabilitate offenders who have not been reconvicted of any serious offence for periods of years."

This act applies in England and Wales but there are some differences in how it is applied in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Below is some useful advice to consider before applying...

  • Be honest and don’t try to hide your convictions. If you’re not honest you could face being prosecuted later.
  • You must declare if you have ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’ convictions upon application. There are some jobs which also require you to not be waiting to appear in court to apply.
  • A conviction becomes ‘spent’ after a certain period of time has passed. For example, if you were imprisoned in England for less than six months your conviction would be considered ‘spent’ after two years from the date the sentence was completed.
  • You can then apply to join the Armed Forces as though the conviction and sentence had never taken place but in the interest of national security ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions must be declared.
  • If your circumstances change during the application process you must tell the recruitment officer you have been working with.
  • You are required by law to declare if you are banned from owning a gun under section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968.
  • You will have to complete an online background check to achieve security check level clearance.
  • There are certain branches within the Armed Forces that will require extra levels of security clearance like dental, legal, medical, police or cadet training.
  • Convictions with sentences that include imprisonment for more than 48 months, preventive detention or life sentences will never be considered ‘spent’ which will, in turn, prevent you from applying.

So be up front, keep the application up to date with any changes and give it a go.

IMPORTANT: This article is not official legal advice. If you are in any doubt we recommend you seek your own legal advice.

Want more guidance about your eligibility?   Royal Navy   |   British Army   |   Royal Air Force

Cover Photo Credit: / Donald Tong

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