Irish Penal Reform Trust

Spent convictions consultation demonstrates a commitment by Government to supporting rehabilitation

6th October 2020

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has described the launch of a public consultation on spent convictions by Minister for Justice Ms Helen McEntee TD today (06.10.2020) as an opportunity to promote and support rehabilitation and reduce reoffending. The public consultation follows a commitment in the Programme for Government to expand the application of existing spent convictions legislation. IPRT further welcomes the commitment of Minister McEntee and Senator Lynn Ruane, a champion for spent convictions reform, to “working together to bring about change in this area.”

Responding to the launch of the consultation, IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide stated:

“Spent convictions reform has the potential to transform the lives of people with old convictions who meet everyday barriers to work, education, training, volunteering and even insurance. It’s rare that a week goes by where IPRT is not contacted by someone anxious to progress their career or volunteer in their community, when an old conviction comes back to haunt them – sometimes from 20 or 30 years ago. This consultation is a welcome opportunity for everyone to engage directly in the reform of legislation that has a profound impact on their lives, their families, and their communities.

“We hope that this public consultation by the Department of Justice will attract a wide response from across society and will deepen the strong evidence base around the lifelong impact of old convictions on law abiding people with convictions histories. Importantly, the consultation also explicitly seeks victims’ views on this important rehabilitative tool. Ultimately, we are optimistic that considering feedback from the public on the issue will bring us closer to achieving a fairer system that allows more people to participate fully and effectively in society.

“It is important that when a person has demonstrated to society that they have moved on from offending, that society acknowledges this and allows them to move on. Research published only this week by the Central Statistics Office demonstrates the low number of people who secure stable employment even 3 years after release from prison. This not only has detrimental impacts on the person and their family, but is felt by their immediate community and wider society.”

IPRT has long campaigned for legislation that removes certain convictions from a person’s record after a proportionate rehabilitative period. This is because having a criminal record that needs to be disclosed, no matter how minor or how long ago, often creates barriers to work, training, education, insurance, volunteering, and other areas of life. While there is no data available in Ireland, approx. 16% of the adult population in the UK has at least one conviction. IPRT has described the existing spent convictions scheme as “mean spirited,” limited and failing to meet its rehabilitative purpose. 

This public consultation process on Spent Convictions policy is one of several public consultations held by the Department of Justice this year. This welcome practice of gathering input from all communities, including those disproportionately impacted by the issues, demonstrates action on the Department’s commitment to robust evidence-informed policymaking.

For further comment, contact: 087-1812990

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NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy.
  2. IPRT has been campaigning for a strong and robust spent convictions scheme in Ireland since 2006. See: www.iprt.ie/spent-convictions
  3. IPRT was responding to the launch of a public consultation on spent convictions, launched by the Department of Justice today: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Spent_Convictions_Consultation
  4. The existing law, the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016  was enacted on in April 2016It is IPRT’s position that this law fails to fulfil its rehabilitative objectives.
  5. The Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 introduced by Senator Lynn Ruane addressed issues of eligibility, proportionality, and introduced a new approach for young adults. However, the Bill fell with the dissolution of the 32nd Dáil.
  6. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) published ‘Offenders 2016 – Employment, Education and Other Outcomes 2016 – 2019’ on 5th October 2020: https://www.cso.ie/en/csolatestnews/pressreleases/2020pressreleases/pressstatementoffenders2016-employmenteducationandotheroutcomes2016-2019/

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