The Minister for Justice has announced that changes are to be made to Garda vetting, which will see "certain minor offences that are more than seven years old, where the person has not subsequently reoffended" no longer disclosed in vetting information. The statement was made in response to a Dáil question on Tuesday 25th March 2014; the full text is given below.
IPRT has long campaigned for a scheme whereby convictions become spent after a reasonable rehabilitative period. We are still waiting on that legislation to be passed and enacted, although the Minister has stated that it is his intention that it will be passed by summer 2014.
However, the requirement to disclose all convictions - no matter how minor, no matter how irrelevant, no matter how long ago - indefinitely, as contained within the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012, presented a further barrier to the many people who want to work as teachers, or volunteer with their children's sports clubs, and so on. This amounted to disproportionate punishment for very minor offences, often committed when the person was aged 18 or 19, in some cases decades ago. To this end, IPRT strongly welcomes the proposed changes.
- The statement by Minister for Justice only relates to Garda vetting for work in Ireland with children and vulnerable adults; it doesn’t have any impact on disclosures of convictions for reasons of travel/emigration, insurance, etc.
- It is unclear whether these changes are already in operation, or whether they will be introduced in future when the Vetting Bureau Act is fully commenced.
The full written answer is included below:
Responding to a question from Deputy Róisín Shortall, on 25th March 2014 the Minister for Justice stated:
"Garda Vetting Disclosures are predicated on the signed authorisation of a vetting subject for An Garda Síochána to disclose to the registered organisation “details of all prosecutions, successful or not, pending or completed, and/or convictions which may be recorded in respect of them in the State or elsewhere”; or alternatively that there are “no prosecutions or convictions recorded in respect of them”. The disclosure is made by the Garda Central Vetting Unit to the requesting, registered organisation of the position at the time when it is issued.
"Elements of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 relating to the disclosure of convictions are under review at present having regard to a recent judgment of the UK Court of Appeal in (On the Application of) T and others v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester . The UK Court considered the circumstances in which it is appropriate to disclose convictions for old, minor offences with particular regard to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Having considered the judgement in that case, I intend bringing proposals before the Oireachtas to provide that certain old minor convictions will not be disclosed under the provisions of the 2012 Act. Given the close relationship between this Act and the Spent Convictions Bill, which is before the Oireachtas at the moment, any changes to the Vetting Act will have to be reflected in the Spent Convictions Bill. The amendment of the Vetting Act will also be done via the Spent Convictions Bill.
"Until now all records of all criminal convictions have been disclosed by the Gardaí when vetting people for various employments. However, in future certain minor offences that are more than seven years old, where the person has not subsequently reoffended, will not be disclosed. In addition, cases of minor offences where charges are struck out will not be disclosed. More serious offences, however, such as all sexual offences, offences against the person, serious motoring offences, firearms offences, robbery, or any offence for which the person is convicted on indictment will continue to be disclosed in all cases.
"Pending commencement of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 the revisions in approach outlined above will, in the interim be applied on an administrative basis by the Garda Central Vetting Unit.
"The Deputy will appreciate that a decision as to the employability of a specific individual rests with the relevant employer who may have to take into account a wide variety of considerations in the context of making that decision. The Garda Central Vetting Unit has no role in this decision making process nor is it the function of the vetting process to make recommendations in this regard."