[Updated 27th May 2013]
The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Amendment Bill 2012 has stalled at Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, while aspects of the legislation are under review. It is not likely to return to the Dáil until autumn 2013.
A number of interesting amendments were tabled by TDs Olivia Mitchell, Maureen O'Sullivan and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, which can be read here.
Although there have been a number of positive amendments to the original Bill since it was published in May 2012 (including shorter rehabilitation periods; and increase in suspended sentences limit from 12 to 24 months; multiple convictions for one incident being counted as one conviction for the purposes of the Bill), IPRT remains disappointed that:
- There has been no move at all on the limit of custodial sentences to <12 months
- Suspended sentence convictions are limited to <24 months
Among the Senators and TDs who proposed amendments raising the limit of 12 months custodial sentence are:
- Senator Jillian van Turnout (2 years)
- Senator Fiach MacConghail (2 years)
- Senator Kathryn Reilly (48 months)
- Senator David Cullinane (48 months)
- Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (48 months)
- Niall Collins TD (2 years)
- Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD (48 months)
However, despite this action on the part of Senators and TDs, so far the Government has refused to move on the limit of 12 months, referring to the Law Reform Commission report of 2007, which recommended that the spent convictions scheme should apply to custodial sentences of 6 months or less.
IPRT believes that the limit of 12 months could be raised without any risk to public safety, nor any risk of diminishing the punishment handed down by the Courts. Spent Convictions is not about mitigating punishment – it is about rehabilitation; it is about acknowledging the person’s successful efforts to move on from offending behaviour; it is about supporting this change in behaviour by removing barriers from participation in employment, education, housing and other aspects of day to day life.
To this end, we have proposed that:
- The definition of “excluded sentences” in section 1 of the Bill should be amended to include at least “sentences of 30 months or less”, or preferably to “sentences of 48 month or less” (as it is in the UK, following 40 years of experience).
- The definition “relevant non-custodial sentences” in section 1 of the Bill should be amended to include all sentences which are suspended in whole and which are not subsequently revoked.
Find out more about IPRT's campaign for Spent Convictions here.