6th October 2020
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has described the launch of a public consultation on spent convictions by Minister for Justice Ms Helen McEntee TD today (06.10.2020) as an opportunity to promote and support rehabilitation and reduce reoffending. The public consultation follows a commitment in the Programme for Government to expand the application of existing spent convictions legislation. IPRT further welcomes the commitment of Minister McEntee and Senator Lynn Ruane, a champion for spent convictions reform, to “working together to bring about change in this area.”
Responding to the launch of the consultation, IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide stated:
“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.
“We hope that this public consultation by the Department of Justice will attract a wide response from across society and will deepen the strong evidence base around the lifelong impact of old convictions on law abiding people with convictions histories. Importantly, the consultation also explicitly seeks victims’ views on this important rehabilitative tool. 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.
“It is important that when a person has demonstrated to society that they have moved on from offending, that society acknowledges this and allows them to move on. Research published only this week by the Central Statistics Office demonstrates the low number of people who secure stable employment even 3 years after release from prison. This not only has detrimental impacts on the person and their family, but is felt by their immediate community and wider society.”
IPRT has long campaigned for legislation that removes certain convictions from a person’s record after a proportionate rehabilitative period. This is because having a criminal record that needs to be disclosed, no matter how minor or how long ago, often creates barriers to work, training, education, insurance, volunteering, and other areas of life. While there is no data available in Ireland, approx. 16% of the adult population in the UK has at least one conviction. IPRT has described the existing spent convictions scheme as “mean spirited,” limited and failing to meet its rehabilitative purpose.
This public consultation process on Spent Convictions policy is one of several public consultations held by the Department of Justice this year. This welcome practice of gathering input from all communities, including those disproportionately impacted by the issues, demonstrates action on the Department’s commitment to robust evidence-informed policymaking.
For further comment, contact: 087-1812990
NOTES TO EDITORS
Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.