This came up in the comments thread of this question so it was suggested to ask it.

2 Answers 2


Spent means the sentence etc has been served and, under certain conditions, one need not disclose one's criminal history as they are deemed rehabilitated. See the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and NARCO:

Once a conviction, caution, reprimand or final warning becomes spent, you do not need to disclose it to most employers, or when applying for most courses, insurance or other purposes (e.g. applying for housing)...

Expunged means the conviction etc has been quashed as though it never existed. The online OED defines it as:

Obliterate or remove completely (something unwanted or unpleasant)

Note that the term used by in legislation is Quash[ed], as per section 2(2) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968:

In the case of an appeal against conviction the Court shall, if they allow the appeal, quash the conviction.

  • 2
    So "expunged" means the conviction was wrong in the first place and should never have happened (in a perfect world)?
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 9:25
  • I think this comment should be integrated into the answer. Commented May 10, 2022 at 10:18
  • 1
    @gnasher729 no, expunged means the conviction is so old that it no longer appears on a criminal record. It does not mean that the conviction never happened. It is different from one that has been overturned or pardoned.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 12:32

A spent conviction has had its punishment served.

An expunged conviction is one that has been served and is so old (I.e. there is a statutory time limit) that it can no longer be reported for particular purposes. Usually on a police record although there may be different grades of police record - you maybe expunged in some but not on others. For example, certain convictions may not appear on publicly available records but may be available to police or courts.

  • 2
    Do you have any reputable sources for this? Maybe things are different in your jurisdiction but "Spent" in E&W has a specific meaning beyond "punishment served" which is, near enough, the same as your definition of expunged.
    – user35069
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 12:51

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