Monday 19 March 2018

Shorten seven year stretch before minor convictions expire call

Lyndsey Telford, Press Association

A NEW law that could see people with minor criminal convictions have them spent within seven years is still too restrictive, it has been claimed.

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has argued the length of time between a minor conviction such as receiving a fine or community service order and having to declare it to a potential employer should be shortened.

It has called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to reconsider proposed legislation, which allows for certain convictions to become spent providing an individual has remained conviction-free for between three and seven years.

IHRC president Dr Maurice Manning described the Spent Convictions Bill as too restrictive, saying while it aims to help re-integrate people into society and work there are still too many barriers.

"For a person who is convicted of a minor offence or fined to have to reveal that conviction for three to seven years seems entirely disproportionate," said Dr Manning.

Ireland is the only country in the European Union that has no existing legislation allowing for criminal convictions to lapse after a certain length of time.

The Spent Convictions Bill, published in early May, also covers certain custodial sentences shorter than one year.

Dr Manning said the proposed legislation, which has not yet been enacted, also clashes with new vetting legislation which is currently being passed through parliament.

A conviction may be declared spent for the purpose of the Spent Convictions Bill, but information on the existence of the conviction will still be available to employers through the Vetting Bill.

"While the vetting process has an important role in protecting children and people in vulnerable situations," Dr Manning said.

"The broad scope of vetting in practice could further weaken the purpose of the Spent Convictions legislation, and result in barriers for people convicted of minor offences who are trying to re-enter society and employment, particularly those not seeking to work directly with children or people in vulnerable circumstances."

He said the "contradictions" in the two pieces of legislation should be clarified to ensure the Spent Convictions Bill achieves its aim.

IHRC acting chief executive Des Hogan added that the requirement for former offenders to disclose their criminal record up to seven years following their convictions reduces their chances of getting a job.

"Employment is key to rehabilitation," said Mr Hogan.

"The proposed legislation should provide far shorter periods of rehabilitation, proportionate to the sentence imposed."

He pointed out that in the United Kingdom, offences carrying convictions of up to 30 months can be declared spent in one to four years.

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