6 October, 2020
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has launched a public consultation on Spent Convictions policy. Views are being sought from general and specialised audiences alike and the consultation will remain open for one month.
A spent conviction is one that an individual no longer has to disclose, provided they meet the relevant criteria. In certain situations an individual may need to disclose their criminal convictions and this can have a negative effect on their employment prospects and on other aspects of life, including foreign travel. The inability of an offender to access employment can impair their chance to rehabilitate and thus increase the prospect of reoffending.
It should be stated that sexual offences or convictions in the Central Criminal Court are not eligible to become spent convictions, and this policy will not change following this review.
Launching the consultation, Minister McEntee said,
“The new Programme for Government commits to a review of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 to broaden the range of convictions that are considered spent.
“I am pleased to begin that process of review by launching this public consultation document. It provides a look at the existing legislation as well as an overview of proposals aimed at expanding the scope and efficacy of Ireland’s spent convictions regime.”
This is one element in a wider suite of measures across several areas of Government, which are designed to promote rehabilitation and reduce the chances of people returning to criminality. These measures are designed to support a safe, fair and inclusive society, where those who have broken the law are required to face justice, but are also provided with a real opportunity to address their offending behaviour and go on to participate in society as law abiding and productive citizens, with all the benefits that entails.
The Minister last week met with Senator Lynn Ruane, who has advocated for reform of spent convictions policy and published her own legislation last year. Both the Minister and Senator Ruane committed to working together to bring about change in this area.
Minister McEntee continued,
“While it is essential that we maintain a robust criminal justice system, with appropriate penal provisions for offenders, we must not neglect the rehabilitation of prisoners and convicted persons. We should be working to facilitate their safe integration within communities and thus give them the opportunity to fully contribute to society.
“Through this process I have launched today, we have the opportunity to review the regime introduced by the 2016 legislation and identify how we can improve outcomes for people convicted of relatively minor offences, and build stronger and safer communities.”
Senator Lynn Ruane said,
“I’m delighted to have the support of Minister Helen McEntee and her Department in further progressing reform of our spent conviction laws.
“I look forward to directly hearing from communities, groups and individuals on how we should treat former convictions and hearing the views of the public on the changes we are proposing.
“I’d particularly like to encourage those with lived experience of this issue to participate and engage; your insights will direct and shape how these changes to our laws progress.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
A public consultation on the Spent Convictions policy approach will go live on the Department’s website and social media from Tuesday, 6 October and will run for 1 month until 12pm, Friday 6th November.
The consultation and related documents may be viewed at http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Spent_Convictions_Consultation
Submissions can be made by email to email@example.com
The consultation document sets out the background and the principles of spent convictions and their place in our rehabilitative justice system. The consultation document has identified five major areas where the Department is particularly seeking input. The five issues highlighted are:
o Issue 1: The sentencing length limits for spent convictions;
o Issue 2: The number of convictions that can be considered spent;
o Issue 3: The principle of proportionality and spent convictions;
o Issue 4: Incorporating a Youth Justice perspective;
o Issue 5: The victim’s perspective;
The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, provides for certain convictions to become spent once 7 years have passed since the date of conviction. In general, and in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the following convictions may become spent:
- All convictions in the District Court for motoring offences which are more than 7 years old subject to the proviso that spent convictions for dangerous driving are limited to a single conviction.
- All convictions in the District Court for minor public order offences which are more than 7 years old.
- In addition, where a person has one, and only one, conviction (other than a motoring or public order offence) which resulted in a term of imprisonment of less than 12 months or a fine, that conviction is spent after 7 years. This provision applies to either a District Court or Circuit Court conviction.
Sexual offences or convictions in the Central Criminal Court are not eligible to become spent convictions.
There is no formal procedure to be gone through to have a conviction declared spent. If the conviction is eligible to be spent, it becomes spent once seven years has passed from the date of conviction.
It is important to understand that while a conviction may become spent under Irish law, this does not mean that the conviction ceases to be part of the person's criminal record. The effect of the Act is that, although it remains part of the person’s criminal record, the person will not be penalised in law or incur any liability for failing to disclose a spent conviction.
It is also important to note that in some cases, disclosure of a spent conviction is required in circumstances including for example for specified work, such as with An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, or applying for a public service vehicle, private security, taxi or firearm licence. An Garda Síochána is not required to expunge the details of such offences from the Garda PULSE system and a court may also admit or require evidence regarding a spent conviction in certain circumstances.