The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Bill 2012 was passed in the Dáil on Wednesday 27th January 2016. The Bill as passed by the Dáil is available here.
The Bill now returns to the Seanad at Report and Final stages (scheduled for Wed 3rd Feb 2016), before it can be sent to the President of Ireland to be signed into law. Once signed into law, it will become known as the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016.
Under the Bill, when it is passed and commenced, the following convictions may become spent after 7 years:
- Convictions for certain minor motoring and public order offences received in the district court, for which the sanction received was less than a 12-month custodial sentence or 24-month suspended sentence not subsequently revoked. There is no limit to the number of these convictions that become spent after 7 years.
- One other conviction received in the district or circuit court, for which the sanction received was less than a 12-month custodial sentence or 24-month suspended sentence not subsequently revoked.
- A number of exclusions and conditions apply. For example, convictions for sexual offences are excluded from the scheme, and convictions for insurance fraud have to be disclosed in specified circumstances.
An Administrative Filter to Garda Vetting was introduced on 31st March 2014, which clarified the information that is declared on vetting forms. Details of the Admin Filter are available here.
IPRT has long campaigned for a legislative scheme whereby certain convictions are no longer declared after a set rehabilitative period. The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Bill 2012, when signed into law and commenced, will be of benefit to a wide number of people with minor convictions histories, particularly those received for motoring and public order offences.
However, considering that the core purpose of the legislation is to acknowledge people's efforts to leave offending behaviour long behind, IPRT believes the legislation could have been strengthened through:
- Raising the limit on the type of custodial sentence that is eligible to become spent, from 12 months or less to <30 months (in line with Northern Ireland) or <48 months (in line with England and Wales);
- Removing the cap on the number of convictions that may become spent - IPRT strongly believes that it is the length of time since a person offended and not the number of times they may have offended in the past that indicates the likelihood of reoffending; and
- Retaining a proportionate relationship between the nature of the sanction and the rehabilitation period, instead of the blanket 7 year period for all sanctions, whether a small fine or 12 months in prison.
Notwithstanding these limitations, however, the passing of this legislation can only be seen as a historic step for Ireland - the only country in the EU to not have any scheme, until now, whereby certain convictions can become spent after a rehabilitative period.
This is progress!