Knowing whether or not you should declare convictions to an insurer can cause some confusion, so let’s dive right in and give this topic some clarity.
Why do insurers ask about convictions?
The premium you pay for car insurance is based on a calculation of various risk factors. From long experience, insurance companies have found that a driver’s conviction history is a relevant factor in the likelihood of you making a claim in the future. That’s why they ask you about motoring and non-motoring convictions.
When to declare convictions
If you’re not asked about convictions, you don’t have to mention them, but this is very rare.
Whether you apply for cover online, on the phone, direct to the insurance company or via a third-party broker, the application process usually includes questions about convictions. If you’re asked about unspent convictions you must answer as truthfully and as accurately as possible.
Sometimes an insurance broker may complete an application form for you. However, it’s still your responsibility to check that your answers have been taken down correctly before you sign or submit the form.
The renewal date of your policy is also a time to let your insurer know about any convictions you’ve had in the last 12 months, as it might affect the renewal premium. Some insurers’ terms and conditions require you to disclose any new convictions as soon as they happen rather than wait until renewal, so check your policy wording.
For how long do you have to declare convictions to an insurer?
The law recognises that it would be unfair to hold past mistakes against you forever. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, most convictions become “spent” after a certain number of years. This is called the “rehabilitation period”. When the conviction becomes spent, you no longer have to declare it to an insurer.
The length of the rehabilitation period can vary, according to the seriousness of the conviction and the age of the person on the date of the conviction. Some sentences, including those with lengthy prison sentences, are so serious that they never become spent. These will always have to be disclosed to an insurer.
How to check whether your convictions are spent
There are several ways you can find out more about your convictions and their rehabilitation periods:
- For criminal convictions, the government has drawn up a table of the most common sentences and the rehabilitation periods that go with them.
- For motoring offences, you can check the offence code on another government web page to find out how long it stays on your licence.
- You can view your personal driving licence information to check for penalty points, endorsements or driving bans.
- You have the right to ask what information the police have about you. This is called a Subject Access Request. You’ll get a copy of your Police National Computer (PNC) record, including details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings, reprimands, penalty notices and more. Start your application through the Criminal Records Office.
- You can apply to the Disclosure and Barring Service to do a basic criminal record check for yourself.
- If you are still unsure whether your conviction is spent or unspent, the charity Unlock has an online disclosure calculator that helps to establish this for you.
To slightly complicate matters, where the court imposes more than one sentence or penalty for the offence, the longest rehabilitation period determines when the conviction will become spent.
An example might be a road traffic offence where the convicted driver is given:
- a fine (rehabilitation period 1 year)
- an endorsement (rehabilitation period 5 years) and
- penalty points (rehabilitation period 3 years).
The rehabilitation period for this conviction will be 5 years because the endorsement carries the longest rehabilitation period. (Source)
Should you disclose police cautions and warnings?
Official police cautions, reprimands or warnings become spent immediately, according to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, with the minor exception of conditional cautions, which become spent after three months.
Declaring convictions for other people covered by the insurance
You must also give truthful and accurate information about convictions for any other person insured to drive on the policy, for example a spouse, partner, child or parent.
Consequences of not declaring a conviction to an insurer
If your insurer finds out that you or someone else covered by the policy has a conviction which has been deliberately concealed, there could be a number of consequences:
- They could cancel your policy
- You could be asked to pay the insurer an extra sum of money, equal to the higher premium they would have charged if they had they been aware of the conviction.
- If you have made a claim, your insurer could ask you to repay all or part of the amount you were paid out.
- You could be charged with insurance fraud. This might result in a criminal conviction, imprisonment, or at the very least, make it much harder to find insurance in future.
The oversight may not have been deliberate, of course. Most insurers will try to resolve genuine mistakes in a way that’s fair to all parties. However, it underpins your responsibility to check that you have accurately answered every question on the application form or at renewal.
Can insurers check for driving convictions?
Yes, but only with your permission. If you enter your driving licence details on an insurance application, the insurer can quickly get the most up-to-date information from the DVLA database. This shows them all details of motoring convictions or endorsements on your licence.
This scheme, called MyLicence, is the result of collaboration between the DVLA, the Department for Transport and the insurance industry. Sharing details this way saves you time filling out forms and speeds up the application process. It also makes sure forgetful mistakes don’t cause you problems later on.
Another big benefit of the scheme is that it helps to drive down fraudulent insurance applications. Over time, this can lower the cost of insurance for honest drivers.
Can you refuse permission for an insurer to check your driving licence details?
Yes, but some insurers may choose not to quote if you’re unwilling to let them check your motoring conviction details. The insurer can also ask mid-way through a policy for your driving licence information – not providing this can mean the insurer is within their right to cancel a customers policy.
Finding convicted driver insurance
It can be hard for convicted drivers to find car insurance because they are seen as a higher risk group. However, there are insurers who specialise in this area, and as an independent broker with years of experience in this market, Complete Cover Group are experts at finding affordable insurance for convicted drivers with many of them.
Some minor convictions may make no difference at all to the premium you are quoted. More serious convictions, or a history of multiple convictions, may make your quote more expensive.
Will convictions affect you making a claim?
As long as you were honest about any convictions on the insurance application, they shouldn’t affect your ability to make a claim later on. Drivers who were less than honest on their application, though, could find that their insurer won’t pay out.