Department of Justice publishes research papers to examine different approaches to Spent Convictions

 

 

October 16, 2020

 

Today, the Department of Justice has published two research papers in the area of Spent Convictions. These reports will assist in the development of the most balanced Spent Convictions policy in Ireland, in line with international best practice.   

 

Last week, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced details of a public consultation (details in Notes for Editors) on Spent Convictions policy which is now underway. As part of this consultation, the Department is publishing these research reports which examine what actions other jurisdictions are taking as well as considering the current status of spent convictions policy in Ireland.

 

A spent conviction is a conviction that, when it meets defined criteria, does not legally have to be disclosed in certain circumstances, the most common of which is when a person seeks new employment.

 

The rationale for a spent conviction legislative regime is rooted in the principles of rehabilitative justice and the generally accepted acknowledgement that, after a certain period of a time, individuals deserve a ‘second chance’ and the opportunity to move on without having to disclose a past minor criminal conviction.

 

These newly published research papers provide an examination of spent convictions focusing on two separate areas. 

 

The first paper summarises the legislative and policy approaches to spent convictions in several common and civil law jurisdictions, specifically New Zealand, Australia, England and Wales, Sweden and the Netherlands. The paper includes

 

 

The second paper is based on a rapid evidence review of academic literature on the theme of spent convictions. It covers a number of core themes including

 

 

Internationally, a number of jurisdictions have taken varied approaches to spent convictions legislation, the supporting policy and vetting architecture. It is important to note that these jurisdictions were selected to provide both comparability and contrast to Ireland. Individual jurisdictions have regimes with differing levels of complexity, with some having implemented recent reform initiatives, and those jurisdictions are of interest from a policy development perspective. 

 

The research reports on Spent Convictions can be read here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Research_Reports

 

ENDS.../

 

Notes For Editors

 

Spent Convictions Public Consultation

On 6th October the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, launched a public consultation on Spent Convictions policy. This research is an important part of this process, and is available on the Department’s website for consideration by anyone who would like to contribute to the consultation process, which is open for submissions until Friday, 6th November.

 

Further information in relation to the Spent Convictions public consultation is available here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Spent_Convictions_Consultation

 

Research Papers

 

The first paper summarises the legislative and policy approaches to spent convictions in several common and civil law jurisdictions, specifically New Zealand, Australia, England and Wales, Sweden and the Netherlands. This includes detailing the specific criteria required for a conviction to be spent, the associated vetting architecture and any recent changes to approaches in these jurisdictions.

 

The second paper (authored by Dr. Louise Forde and Dr. Katharina Swirak, UCC) is based on a rapid evidence review of academic literature on the theme of spent convictions. It covers a number of core themes including the impact of spent conviction regimes on reintegration into society, the importance of proportionality in any legislative criteria and differing approaches to the disclosure of criminal records and its impact.

 

General Information on Spent Convictions

 

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, provides for certain convictions to become spent once 7 years have passed since the date of conviction. In general, and in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the following convictions may become spent:

 

  1. All convictions in the District Court for motoring offences which are more than 7 years old subject to the proviso that spent convictions for dangerous driving are limited to a single conviction.
  2. All convictions in the District Court for minor public order offences which are more than 7 years old.
  3. In addition, where a person has one, and only one, conviction (other than a motoring or public order offence) which resulted in a term of imprisonment of less than 12 months or a fine, that conviction is spent after 7 years. This provision applies to either a District Court or Circuit Court conviction.

 

Sexual offences or convictions in the Central Criminal Court are not eligible to become spent convictions.

 

There is no formal procedure to be gone through to have a conviction declared spent. If the conviction is eligible to be spent, it becomes spent once seven years has passed from the date of conviction.  

 

It is important to understand that while a conviction may become spent under Irish law, this does not mean that the conviction ceases to be part of the person's criminal record. The effect of the Act is that, although it remains part of the person’s criminal record, the person will not be penalised in law or incur any liability for failing to disclose a spent conviction.

 

It is also important to note that in some cases, disclosure of a spent conviction is required in circumstances including for example for specified work, such as with An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, or applying for a public service vehicle, private security, taxi or firearm licence. An Garda Síochána is not required to expunge the details of such offences from the Garda PULSE system and a court may also admit or require evidence regarding a spent conviction in certain circumstances.