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IHRC: Observations on the Spent Convictions Bill 2007

30th April 2009

In its Observations on the Spent Convictions Bill 2007, the Irish Human Rights Commission considers that the 2007 Bill is in line with Ireland’s commitment to rehabilitate and re-integrate offenders back into society. However, in applying the relevant human rights law to the Bill, the IHRC identifies a number of areas of concern, namely: the proposals relating to the period of rehabilitation, the sentencing threshold and the excluded employment.

Recommendations:

  1. Rehabilitation period: The IHRC recommends that in line with the principle of proportionality and to maximise the possibility of rehabilitation of convicted persons, the proposed legislation should provide shorter periods of rehabilitation, proportionate to the sentence imposed. In addition, consideration should be given to amending the Children Act 2001 accordingly.
  2. Sentencing Threshold: The IHRC recommends that in order to aid the rehabilitation of a broader range of offenders consideration is given to extending the six month sentencing threshold in the 2007 Bill. If the sentencing threshold is extended, consideration could be given to establishing an application based system for serious offences that come within the revised sentencing threshold, whereby persons convicted of a serious offence would have to apply to a District Court judge to have their sentences considered spent
  3. Excluded Employment: The IHRC recommends that section 5(2) is reconsidered to ensure that the only categories of employment excluded from the legislative provisions are excluded for legitimate reasons on grounds which include the protection of national security or public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime and the protection of the health or rights and freedoms of others.

The IHRC also reiterates the recommendation it made in 2005 that the grounds of discrimination in the Employment Equality Act 1998 should be extended to include discrimination on the basis of a criminal conviction. The IHRC recommended that this should be accompanied by a restructuring of the vetting system, as recommended by the Data Protection Commissioner, and that a system to expunge previous convictions after a fixed period of time should be considered.

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