6th July 2015
Writing in today's Irish Times, Prof Michael O'Flaherty (Chairperson of IPRT) addresses the lack of spent convictions legislation in Ireland, and identifies potential conflicts with Ireland's human rights obligations in the most recent proposals.
He states clearly: "While the initiative is to be welcomed, the Bill is in need of improvement and the Oireachtas will have the opportunity to get it right when it comes back to committee stage in coming weeks."
He expresses particular concern at indications that the provisions in the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012 may form the basis of the amended spent convictions Bill:
"If this is the case, the legislation will be at odds with human rights because of the way it rules out whole categories of criminal records without paying attention to individual circumstances and contexts."
He also references the Rehabilitation of Offenders (NI) Order 1978 which has been in place for more than 35 years in northern Ireland, and which provides for rehabilitation periods of between six months and 10 years, and covers all those who receive sentences of 30 months or less. This he links to the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which requires that the Republic ensures "at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights" as in Northern Ireland, and indeed specifically references:
“the importance of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community by providing support both prior to and after release, including assistance directed towards availing of employment opportunities, retraining and/or reskilling, and further education”.
There is an opportunity now to get it right, and ensure human rights for all.
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