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Spent Convictions and your Insurance Contract

The insurance contract includes a duty known as “uberrima fides”, the duty of utmost good faith. It means that a higher duty of disclosure is required from people in relation to insurance contracts than other types of contract. If someone fails to disclose a fact deemed to be material to an insurance contract, the insurance company may have the right to cancel the policy, ab initio. This results in the possibility of a contract being deemed null and void and treated as never having been in existence.

Court convictions are generally required to be disclosed when seeking insurance. The enactment of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 (“the Act”) means that where certain criteria are met, a person may no longer have to disclose certain convictions when seeking insurance. The Act came into force on 29th April 2016.

Under the new Act, for a conviction to be regarded as “spent”, generally the following conditions must apply:-
  • The person must be over the age of 18 on the date of commission of the offence,
  • At least 7 years must have passed since the effective date of conviction,
  • The sentence imposed by the court in respect of the conviction cannot be an“excluded sentence”; and
  • The person must have complied with the court order in respect of the conviction concerned.

The “effective date of conviction” means the date on which a sentence, e.g, fine, driving ban, imprisonment, becomes operative. This is particularly important, for example, in drink driving cases where a delay of perhaps six months is allowed before a driving ban takes effect. The 7 year period will run from this later date, rather than the date of actual conviction.

Generally, no more than one conviction may be regarded as spent. More than one conviction will mean that none of the convictions can be regarded as spent. However, if a person is convicted of 2 or more offences committed simultaneously or arising from the same incident the convictions can be regarded as one single conviction.

The Act also sets out other exceptions to the one conviction rule. For example, in the case of minor road traffic offences, other than dangerous driving, more than one conviction can be regarded as spent.
Where an “excluded sentence” is applied on conviction, it will not be allowed to be spent. An “excluded sentence” under the Act, means a sentence imposed by a court where there has been a term of imprisonment of more than 12 months or any serious criminal offences which are tried in the Central Criminal Court, ie rape, murder etc, or a sexual offence. Again, there are certain exceptions to this.

Similarly, anyone convicted of fraud, deceit or dishonesty in respect of a claim under an insurance policy of assurance will not be excused from disclosing such a conviction when applying for any subsequent insurance.

Where a conviction is regarded as spent a person no longer has to disclose this conviction when seeking insurance.

To Conclude

In circumstances where people have minor convictions dating back over 7 years with no subsequent convictions, this legislation means that they can finally put those convictions behind them. These people often faced significant barriers to entry in terms of obtaining insurance, with many insurers simply refusing to quote people who had convictions.

Summary

Under the new Act:-
  • People no longer have to disclose spent convictions when seeking insurance.
  • There is increased access to insurance for a large number of people.
2018-11-14T10:30:43+00:00June 1st, 2016|Publications|

About the Author:

Tríona Walsh is a Senior Associate Solicitor in our litigation department and joined the firm in 2005. Tríona specialises in defence insurance litigation which encompasses road traffic, employer’s liability, product […]

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