Irish Penal Reform Trust

Civil society submissions to the public consultation on spent convictions

16th November 2020

In October 2020, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, launched a public consultation on Spent Convictions policy. This consultation followed a Programme for Government commitment to a review of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 to broaden the range of convictions that are considered spent. The consultation was open to the public, civil society and other relevant bodies for one month. This page is dedicated to capturing the views of varying human rights and social justice organisations who made the case for reform in their submissions.

IPRT emphasised throughout our submission that core to the spirit of rehabilitation is the principle that any person who has demonstrated their commitment to move on from offending through the completion of a conviction-free period should be able to benefit from a spent convictions regime. IPRT’s submission IPRT’s submission to the consultation is available here. IPRT’s accompanying press release is available here.

According to the Department of Justice, 755 survey responses were received, along with 73 written submissions – this speaks to the wide-reaching impact and interest in spent convictions. While organisational submissions have not been made public by the Department of Justice, IPRT has compiled several submissions available either online or shared directly with us (with permission to share).

Many of the issues covered by other organisations in their submissions echo those raised by IPRT, primarily the need for proportionality and the opportunity to extend or remove the limit on the number of eligible convictions. However, each organisation focused on different elements of the challenges faced by people with convictions histories and the changes they propose – based on their research, advocacy, or service provision – to address some of the deficits in the existing legislation. For example, some submissions focused on the human impact of unspent convictions and the need for a strengths-based approach (Cork Alliance Centre), while others focused on the need to move towards a health-led approach to drug convictions in particular (UISCE), the need for broad prohibition on discrimination on the ground of criminal conviction (IHREC), the importance of detailed data collection to assess and evaluate the effects of spent convictions legislation in association with other justice indicators (JCFJ), or the unequal application of the current scheme to different communities, particularly as it relates to securing accommodation (TVG).

While the approaches and focuses of each submission below varied, the golden thread running through each submission was the need for a more expansive scheme, which emphasises the capacity for change and supports rehabilitation.  

[Please note that this list will be added to if more submissions become available to IPRT. Civil society organisations who made a submission are welcome to email communications@iprt.ie for inclusion.]

For more details on the development of spent convictions legislation in Ireland, a ‘Case Study’ of IPRT’s work in the area of spent convictions since 2008 is available here.

Details of any further developments relating to spent convictions will be available on iprt.ie/spent-convictions 

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