The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) today warmly welcomes the introduction in the Dáil for second stage debate the Spent Convictions Bill 2007. The Bill is the first initiative to provide for expungement of adult criminal records in Irish law and it will mean that minor offenders will not have to divulge information about a previous criminal conviction.
While the Bill is an important step towards removing barriers to offenders' reintegration into society, IPRT has submitted to the Minister for Justice a detailed Position Paper on the issue, which addresses a number of aspects of the Bill, which we believe can be improved on. The Position Paper sets out IPRT's main concerns regarding the Bill.
- The rehabilitation periods proposed of five and seven years (periods when the offenders stays offence-free) are unnecessarily long for a young person who might have committed a minor offence at the age of 18 or 19.
- The Bill will only apply to persons who have served a sentence of less than 6 months and will exclude a large number non-violent offenders.
- At present all civil service, legal and health care work is excluded from the Bill, closing off a significant proportion of the workforce for a person whose offence may have no connection to public safety.
Liam Herrick, IPRT Director, called on members of the Oireachtas to take the opportunity presented by the Bill to address in a comprehensive way the complex issues around the reintegration of offenders.
"At present all criminal records are permanent. We need to ensure that a minor mistake in someone's life doesn't lead to permanent exclusion from employment. Research conducted over recent years has shown that there is a cycle of offending in our society, where young men who commit minor offences are drawn into recurring patterns of offending. Supporting offenders in accessing employment to break this cycle is a worthwhile investment by society to prevent future offending."
- Liam Herrick talked to RTÉ News at One about Spent Convictions. Listen here.