After many years of tireless and resolute campaigning on our part along with TDs and Senators, the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on the 11th February last. The effect of this legislation provides that people over aged 18 are no longer required by law to disclose certain eligible convictions after seven years for the purposes of employment, education, housing etc. This piece of legislation has been long overdue as Ireland was the sole country in the European Union lacking any provision for spent convictions. The enactment of this Act will now give opportunity to people with minor convictions histories to move on with their lives; finally free of their punishment and hopefully open numerous doors of opportunity for them.
The Minister for Justice and Equality announced on Wednesday, 6th April last, that the Act is to be commenced on the 29th April this year. Minister Fitzgerald went into further details of the Spent Convictions Act with regards to the offences that the Act will cover. Minister Fitzgerald stated “It is intended to commence the Spent Convictions Bill from 29th April 2016. The effect of the Act will be that where persons are applying for employment, (other than employment which is exempt from the provisions of the Act), the person will not be obliged to disclose certain convictions which are over 7 years old. In accordance with the provisions of the Act the following convictions will be spent:
1) All convictions in the District Court for Motoring offences which are more than 7 years old will be spent, subject to the proviso that spent convictions for dangerous driving are limited to a single conviction.
2) All convictions in the District Court for minor public order offences which are more than 7 years old will be spent.
3) In addition, where a person has one, and only one, conviction (other than a motoring or public order offence) which resulted in a term of imprisonment of less than 12 months (or a fine) that conviction will also be spent after 7 years. This provision will apply to either a District Court or Circuit Court conviction.
4) However, sexual offences or convictions in the central Criminal Court are not eligible to become spent convictions.”
Whilst IPRT welcomes the enactment of legislation, we are conscious of the fact that the current legislation is limited to certain offences and does not extend to people who have committed more than one offence (other than minor motoring/public order offences) regardless of the amount of time that has been passed since conviction. However we hope that there will be a review of the operation of the legislation in the not so distant future which will widen the reach and extend to cover more than one offence (other than minor motoring/public order offences) and lengthen the terms of imprisonment permissible under the Act to 48 months.