Irish Penal Reform Trust

Dáil Questions: proposed Spent Convictions legislation

7th April 2011

In a Dáil Question on 7th April, Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter about his plans to introduce a Spent Convictions Bill as priority legislation, and whether he intends to bring forward a more robust and comprehensive Bill than that published by the previous Government.

In his written response, Minister Shatter confirmed that the Government’s legislative programme provides for a new Bill on spent convictions, with publication expected before the end of this term (July 2011):

"The new Bill will build on the proposals from the Law Reform Commission. Unlike the previous Government’s Bill, which lapsed upon the dissolution of the last Dáil, it will elaborate the arrangements in a very comprehensive way, leaving no doubt about the conditions to be met before a conviction can be regarded as spent.

"Its primary aim is to remove obstacles to gaining employment for persons whose convictions attracted sentences towards the lower end of the scale. It will provide for non disclosure by job seekers of convictions that resulted in custodial sentences below a certain threshold or where a non custodial sentence was imposed. The Bill will require the offender to have demonstrated a commitment not to re-offend by observing a period without further conviction before availing of the new arrangements. It will deal with convictions acquired by adults — the Children Act 2001 already caters for young offenders who acquired convictions before turning 18 — and it will have full retrospective effect.

"I want to make it clear that while I am disposed to assisting former offenders who are committed to reform and rehabilitation, I will be providing that certain convictions, because of their nature, must always be disclosed and that full disclosure will be required in the case of certain types of employment, again because of the potential risks involved. In other words, disclosure will always be required in cases such as insurance fraud, sexual offences and offences reserved by law for trial by the Central Criminal Court. Similarly, disclosure will always be required in the case of certain sensitive employment posts in the public service and those involving contact with minors and vulnerable persons. These limitations clearly serve the wider public interest.

I am pleased to be able to indicate, albeit in fairly general terms, my intentions in this area. I am sure the new legislation will be seen by many as an opportunity to make a fresh start. That is good for the offender and for society at large.

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



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