Irish Penal Reform Trust

Rehabilitated offenders need opportunity of fresh start - IPRT statement

9th November 2020

Rehabilitated offenders need opportunity of fresh start

Not all crime deserves a lifetime of punishment

Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) makes fresh Government submission on Spent Convictions
 

Young offenders, people who are sentenced to prison for less than four years and people with convictions who have demonstrated law abiding behaviour should all be given the opportunity to restart their lives, under new recommendations made to Government by the Irish Penal Reform Trust.

IPRT is making legal proposals in a submission to Government in response to a public consultation on the issue of spent convictions.

It says legislation which was being considered prior to the calling of the General Election at the start of the year should be re-instated as amended so that people who have turned their lives around can get jobs, enter education, volunteer, and participate fully in the community.

The submission also calls for equality legislation to be broadened to ensure that offences which are long passed are not dragged up and used as unfair barriers against those who have moved away from offending.
 

The IPRT recommendations are:

  1. Reintroduce the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 as amended, 20th November 2019.
  2. Increase the upper limit of eligible sentences to a minimum of 48 months custodial sentence, and introduce a review mechanism by which convictions that are not eligible for automatic expungement may become spent on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Remove the limit on the number of eligible convictions that can become spent.
  4. Develop a proportionate scale that links the rehabilitative period to the severity of the sentence imposed.
  5. Treat young adults as a distinct cohort within the legislation, including providing for shorter rehabilitative periods.
  6. Any decision to exclude any broad category of offence or area of employment must be justified by empirical evidence. Establish an independent oversight committee to review decisions to disclose convictions information.
  7.  Extend the grounds of discrimination in the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 to include a broad prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of convictions. Section 55 of the Charities Act 2009 should be amended to reduce disproportionate barriers for people with convictions from participating on charitable boards.
  8. Changes to the legislation should be accompanied by a public information campaign.
     

Publishing the submission, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, IPRT Executive Director said:

Offending behaviour often occurs when someone is going through a very difficult period of their lives. Poverty, trauma, loss of a job, homelessness and addiction are just some of pressure points which can lead to offending and a criminal conviction.

Having a criminal record in Ireland, even for a less serious offence, can amount to a disproportionate lifelong punishment. By offering the opportunity to make a fresh start by not having to disclose minor old convictions, we can help people turn their lives around and enhance public safety. This is particularly important for young people.

We are making recommendations to Government which can provide this opportunity. We believe our proposals strike the right balance of justice for past offending, the opportunity for rehabilitation, and legal protections so that long forgotten crimes do not continue to haunt a person for the rest of their life.”


ENDS

For more further comment or to arrange interview, contact:
Fíona/Pamela on 087-1812990

NOTE TO EDITORS: The IPRT Submission to Government is available here.

The Submission is in response to a public consultation on Spent convictions Policy, launched by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD on 6th October.

2019 Survey: In 2019 IPRT conducted a small-scale survey on ‘Living with Convictions’ (Summary below, details in Appendix 1 of Submission).

Lasting impact of convictions: Among those who completed the survey, employment was the issue of most concern with 81% (120) of respondents stating that having a conviction has had a negative impact on ‘getting a job’. Other issues negatively impacted by having a conviction were travel (emigration) with 56% (83); volunteering with 53% (79); travel (holidays) with 41% (60); car/home/personal insurance with 39% (58); access to education with 29% (43); getting a promotion 18% (26); and insurance for employment with 17% (25).

Only 3% (5) said that their convictions have had no negative impact on their lives. Of the 5 people in total who stated that their conviction(s) has had no negative impact, 2 of these had been convicted of one offence. In the ‘other’ answers to this question, concern was raised by several respondents about the impact of the internet/media on their convictions “The internet means that the conviction was/will always be just yesterday.” Respondents also raised concerns about the impact their convictions have had on their family.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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