Bill will allow jobseekers to airbrush criminal records
Convicts, including those found guilty of assault and drink-driving offences, will soon be able to airbrush their criminal record when applying for jobs under new Government plans.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter plans to publish a bill shortly to allow former offenders to legally withhold details of their criminal past to prospective employers.
Mr Shatter has denied the bill allows convicts to wipe their record clean. The Spent Convictions Bill is at an advanced stage of drafting, with only finer details left to be finalised. The bill is included in the Government's legislative programme and is due to be published before the end of this Dail term or early 2012.
At present, criminals under the age of 18 who are brought before courts other than the Central Criminal Court are under law treated as if they have a clean record, provided they have not been charged within three years.
There is no similar provision for those over 18 and Mr Shatter wants to amend this position. Ireland is one of only two countries in the European Union that does not have such a law allowing convicts not to disclose their criminal past.
The bill will allow certain qualifying convictions to be withheld once certain conditions have been met. "The bill will not entail a deletion of the record, but rather a non-disclosure of the offence in certain circumstances," Mr Shatter said.
These conditions will relate mainly to the nature of the offence, the length of time since conviction and the type of employment the person is seeking.
However, certain convictions, including convictions for sexual offences and offences reserved for trial by the Central Criminal Court will be excluded from the new law. Similarly, anyone wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults will have to disclose their past convictions.
According to a study by employers group IBEC, criminal records are seen as a major barrier to offering work. The report showed only 52 per cent of employers would consider employing an individual with a criminal record.
While many would argue that committing a crime means doing the time and suffering the consequences, others believe that the public's right to know about a record impinges on an individual's right to privacy.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed the bill. "Such legislation is a necessary element in ensuring that the commission of a criminal offence does not lead to permanent barriers to reintegration into society," the IPRT said. The Law Reform Commission, the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Law Society of Ireland have long advocated that such 'second-chance' legislation should be available in Ireland.