Written answers

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Criminal Convictions

11:00 pm

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 927: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if, in view of the high levels of unemployment and forced emigration, he will consider the introduction of legislation which would allow, in specified circumstances recommended by the Law Reform Commission, convictions to be removed from a person's record; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32188/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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My primary responsibility as Minister for Justice and Law Reform is to uphold the integrity of the criminal justice system. However, I agree that it is in the interests of society and of offenders if we can promote their rehabilitation and integration into society. Securing employment is, I agree, one of the most effective ways of achieving those objectives. I therefore support the removal of inappropriate barriers that stand in the way of an offender who wishes to make a fresh start. The Deputy will be aware of the Spent Convictions Bill 2007 currently on the Dáil Order Paper. The recommendations by the Law Reform Commission to which the Deputy refers are being given effect by that Bill. The Bill was introduced initially as a Private Members Bill by my colleague, Mr Barry Andrews, TD, Minister for Children and it is now awaiting Committee Stage, having completed Second Stage in December 2008. Minister Andrews and I hope to be in a position to make arrangements for Committee Stage quite soon.

In line with the Commission's Report, the Bill provides for circumstances where a person is entitled to withhold details of certain convictions. It is important to emphasise that it is a non — disclosure regime, rather that one of removing the conviction from the person's criminal record. The Bill is directed at offences committed by persons over 18 years and it will have retrospective effect. As regards those under 18 years, I draw the Deputy's attention to section 258 of the Children Act 2001. It already provides for non — disclosure in respect of most offences committed by persons under 18, once certain conditions have been met. That section came into operation on 1 May 2002. Its effect is that, where the relevant conditions have been met, the person is to be treated for all purposes in law as a person who has not committed, been charged with, prosecuted for, found guilty of or dealt with for an offence and the person may, except as provided for in the section, withhold information about the offence and the circumstances relating to it.

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