Irish Penal Reform Trust

Spent Convictions Bill 2012: FAQ

27th May 2013

IPRT is regularly contacted by people enquiring about different aspects of the Spent Convictions Bill, and what it will mean to them. Here are the most commonly asked questions + our responses.

Please note: this information is based on IPRT’s reading of the Bill as it is currently drafted; it is not a substitute for legal advice. IPRT has submitted recommended amendments to the Bill, which you can access here.

How you can get involved is simple: write/email/call all your local TDs and ask them to put pressure on the Minister for Justice to progress this Bill through the Oireachtas as soon as possible!

Did you know that a Spent Convictions scheme already exists for offences committed aged under 18? For details, see here.

  • If you are looking for information on how the Spent Convictions legislation might apply to you, please see the FAQs below.
  • If you have a conviction, and are experiencing difficulty accessing insurance, please see here.
  • Information on Garda Vetting is available here (Citizens Information Bureau) and here (NYCI).


1.  How long will it be before Spent Convictions is in operation in Ireland?

Impossible to say. The legislation was making progress through the Oireachtas, but has now stalled again while aspects of the legislation are reviewed. You can follow the progress of the Bill - official title Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 - here. (For more information on how a Bill becomes law, see here.)

It is unlikely that the Spent Convictions Bill will be passed before end autumn 2013. It will take some time after that before it is signed into law, and commenced (ie. operational).

If you would like to help us move things a bit faster, please write/email/call all your local TDs and ask them to put pressure on the Minister for Justice to progress the Spent Convictions Bill through the Oireachtas as soon as possible!

2. Will my conviction be covered by the Spent Convictions Scheme?

Generally, convictions for which the sentence was 12 months' imprisonment or less will be covered. This includes:

  • fines
  • probation orders (under Section 1(2) of the Probation Act)
  • community service orders, which have not been revoked
  • suspended sentences of up to 24 months, which have not been revoked
  • custodial sentences of up to 12 months' imprisonment

Certain categories of offences, including sexual offences and offences which were tried at the Central Criminal Court, are excluded from the scheme.

In certain circumstances all convictions, whether spent or unspent, must continue to be declared - see 6 below.

3.  Great, where do I apply?

You can't, it doesn't exist yet! There is a long process through the Oireachtas before it actually becomes law. (See 1 above.) However, when it is fully commenced, the scheme will be 'self-administered'. This means that you won’t have to apply anywhere for your convictions to become spent; you will know yourself whether your convictions come under the Scheme, based on:

  • the seriousness of the offence
  • the sentence you received
  • whether the relevant rehabilitative period has passed
  • whether you have committed any further offences during the rehabilitative period

4. What does a ‘rehabilitative period’ mean?

This is the length of time following the conviction during which you must commit no further offences in order for the conviction to become spent. The length of the rehabilitative period depends on the sentence, but ranges from 2 to 5 years. A table detailing the relevant rehabilitative periods is available on pgs 15-16 of the latest version of the Bill.

5. Will this mean that my criminal record is wiped clean?

Technically, no - but it will be as if your record is clear. When a conviction becomes 'spent', it means that you no longer have to disclose it, and agencies such as the Gardaí cannot disclose information about it. There are exceptions, however – so be sure to read point 6 below.

For example:

  • Insurance: if an insurance form asks you to declare any convictions, you will no longer have to disclose convictions which are spent. (NB! Convictions for insurance fraud and related offences are excluded in this case, and must continue to be declared.)
  • Employment: If an employer asks you to declare any criminal convictions, you can answer 'no' where your convictions are spent. However, if you are applying for an area of work for which Garda vetting is required, all convictions (spent and unspent) will still appear on the form – see 6 below.

6.  Are there any exceptions?

Yes. You will continue to have to declare convictions for 'relevant' work, which mostly relates to jobs in the area of security (Defence Forces, Garda Siochána, Courts, etc) and for work with children or vulnerable adults. A full list is included in the Bill. See also the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012.

You will also have to continue to declare all convictions in certain circumstances, including criminal proceedings, Garda investigations, proceedings related to adoption, etc. Full details are included in the Bill.

People applying for certain licenses (taxis, firearms, etc.) will also have to declare all convictions, spent and unspent. Again, full details are included in the Bill.

7. I received three convictions for one incident. Am I covered?

Following strong advocacy by IPRT and others, multiple convictions received for one incident will now be treated as one conviction for purposes of the Bill.

So, for example, if you received three convictions for one road traffic incident, this will be treated as one conviction under the spent convictions legislation.

8. I want to work as a teacher. Will the Spent Convictions scheme apply to me?

No. Work with children and vulnerable is excluded from the Bill, which means that all former convictions will continue to be included in any Garda Vetting carried out.

For more information about Garda vetting, please see here. the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012, which is expected to be partly commenced from 1st March 2013, is available here.

IPRT is very aware that this is a concern to the vast majority of people who contact us about spent convictions. While a higher threshold must apply to working with children and vulnerable adults, IPRT believes that more minor, non-relevant offences should not present lifetime barriers to work such as teaching.

To this end, IPRT will be engaging with organisations who work with children and for children’s rights to bring forward proposals that strike the right balance between child protection concerns and ensuring that irrelevant and historic minor convictions don’t exclude individuals from working in schools or with young people. Whether this should be tackled by way of legislation or codes of practice remains to be seen.

In fact, many organisations already have codes of practice in place for dealing with information about convictions that comes up on Garda Vetting forms in a fair and balanced way. See for example:

9.  I want to study social work at college. Will I be turned down because I have a conviction?

Currently, this is up to the college, which will make a decision on the basis of information returned by the Garda Vetting Unit. Experiences reported to IPRT on this issue are mixed, but generally positive in terms of accessing the courses.

Garda Vetting is required where placements as part of a college course will be with the HSE. The recruitment and selection policies of the HSE require details of former convictions to be given at job application stage; omission of any convictions is taken extremely seriously by the HSE and means immediate disqualification from the recruitment process.

Where convictions are declared by the applicant and this information is confirmed by the Garda Vetting Unit, the HSE will ask the candidate for a written comment on the recorded convictions, and assess the implication of such a conviction/s using a ‘risk management approach’. This is detailed in the HSE Recruitment and Selection policies, available here (appendix 4).

10. I want to work abroad. When Spent Convictions comes in, will it mean I no longer have to declare my convictions?

No, you will still have to declare all convictions if required by the immigration authority of the country which you wish to enter.

There are some examples where one country recognises the spent convictions legislation of another. See for example information for people with convictions obtained in the UK who wish to enter Canada. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.

Moreover, the Spent Convictions Bill 2012 states clearly (section 8) that spent convictions legislation will not apply where information is sought by another State.

Remember, having a conviction doesn't usually mean that you are automatically barred from entering or working in another country. It generally means that you will have to attend an interview at the relevant embassy, and the decision on whether or not to grant you a visa follows this interview. It can be a slow process, however, and further documentation is often required, so do apply in good time.

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