Review of spent convictions regime begins with consultation
A review of Ireland’s spent convictions regime, which is likely to lead to the broadening of the range of convictions that are considered spent, has begun with the launch of a government consultation.
The consultation, launched by Justice Minister Helen McEntee yesterday, invites views on issues such as what length of sentences should be allowed to become spent, the number of convictions that can be considered spent, and the length of time before a conviction can become spent.
It also invites views on the specific rehabilitative needs of young offenders and whether the spent convictions regime can serve a positive purpose for victims of crime.
Ms McEntee met last week with Senator Lynn Ruane, a long-standing campaigner on the issue who introduced a private member’s bill on the subject in 2018, which won wide support in the Seanad.
The justice minister said: “While it is essential that we maintain a robust criminal justice system, with appropriate penal provisions for offenders, we must not neglect the rehabilitation of prisoners and convicted persons. We should be working to facilitate their safe integration within communities and thus give them the opportunity to fully contribute to society.
“Through this process I have launched today, we have the opportunity to review the regime introduced by the 2016 legislation and identify how we can improve outcomes for people convicted of relatively minor offences, and build stronger and safer communities.”
Senator Ruane added: “I’m delighted to have the support of minister Helen McEntee and her Department in further progressing reform of our spent conviction laws.
“I look forward to directly hearing from communities, groups and individuals on how we should treat former convictions and hearing the views of the public on the changes we are proposing.
“I’d particularly like to encourage those with lived experience of this issue to participate and engage; your insights will direct and shape how these changes to our laws progress.”
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomed the launch of the consultation and the commitment of Ms McEntee and Senator Ruane to work together on the issue.
Fíona Ní Chinnéide, IPRT executive director, said: “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.”
She added: “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.”