4th May 2012
IPRT MEDIA ADVISORY
The Irish Penal Reform Trust has today (Friday, 5th May, 2012) broadly welcomed the publication of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 as a very positive step in supporting the rehabilitation of offenders. IPRT particularly welcomes the raising of the maximum limit to 12 months imprisonment and the shortening of the rehabilitation periods to 3-7 years as improvements on previous proposals. However, some issues remain which must be resolved in order to get the balance right between public safety and reducing barriers to reintegration for those who have moved on from offending behaviour.
Speaking today, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of IPRT said:
“IPRT very much welcomes the introduction of this Bill, which represents an improvement on previous proposals and brings Ireland into line with all other European countries which give less serious offenders a second chance. At the same time, we believe that the legislation could go further than is currently proposed in terms of raising the maximum sentence covered by the bill, in shortening the rehabilitative periods, and in reconsidering the blanket exclusions of certain categories of employment, such as all persons working with children. To this end, IPRT will be engaging with groups working with children and for children’s rights to bring forward specific proposals which will strike the best balance between child protection and ensuring that irrelevant and historic minor convictions don’t exclude individuals from working in schools or with young people.”
Ireland is the only country in the EU which has no scheme for expungement of criminal convictions, and the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 now presents an opportunity to build on international experience and get it right. To this end, the Irish Penal Reform Trust is calling for a number of aspects to be strengthened:
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1. Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012
Published today (Friday 4th May 2012), the Bill is available here: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/bills/2012/3412/b34112s.pdf
2. Currently no ‘second chance’ legislation in Ireland
Ireland is currently the only country in the EU, and one of few in the Council of Europe area, which does not* have legislation allowing for convictions to be considered spent following a set rehabilitative period. (In the UK, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was passed in 1974, nearly 40 years ago.) Among the organisations who have called for fair and effective Spent Convictions legislation are the Irish Human Rights Commission, the Law Society of Ireland, the Law Reform Commission, the Equality Authority, the National Economic and Social Forum, Business in the Community Ireland, and organisations working for the rehabilitation of offenders.
* Under the Children Act 2001, there is provision for the expungement of most criminal convictions where the crime was committed when the person was aged under 18.
3. IPRT Briefing on Spent Convictions
A short document outlining the current situation with regard to spent convictions and why enacting legislation is so important. See here.
4. Barrier to Rehabilitation
Irish and international research demonstrates that barriers to accessing employment and basic services are key factors in preventing convicted persons break the cycle of re-offending. For this reason, Spent Convictions legislation offers the essential incentives to individuals that where they have proven they have reformed, they can look forward to getting back into productive society.
5. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie
IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.