Good behaviour will help offenders 'wipe slate clean'
Offenders, who have served a jail sentence of up to a year, are to be given the opportunity to wipe the slate clean if they remain conviction-free for a number of years after they have been released from prison.
Sexual offences and crimes that have been dealt with by the Central Criminal Court will be excluded from the measure.
The move is contained in the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill, which was approved by the Cabinet this week.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said last night that the length of time that a person must remain conviction-free ranged from three to seven years, depending on the sentence originally imposed by the courts.
He believed the publication of the bill was a significant milestone in the rehabilitation of offenders in Ireland and brought the country into line with other EU states in providing that people with criminal convictions could eventually leave their past behind them and get on with their lives.
"The bill should be of particular benefit to ex-offenders, who often find their their path to employment blocked, once they admit to a previous offence," he said.
Mr Shatter said he believed that society's interest and those of the offender, who mended his or her ways, could coincide.
He hoped to have the bill enacted without delay after a debate in the Oireachtas.