Written answers

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Department of Justice and Equality

Spent Convictions Legislation

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South West, Labour)
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272. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Spent Convictions Bill 2011 (Private Members' Bill) will be scheduled for Report and Final Stages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1854/16]

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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281. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality why the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 was not brought before Dáil Éireann by the end of 2015 as indicated in her recent reply to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 18 November 2015; when will the Bill be brought before Dáil Éireann; if this will be before the end of this Dáil, given that justice reform is high on her agenda, yet for over a decade reform has not taken place in the area of spent convictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2016/16]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 281 together.

I understand that the Spent Convictions Bill 2012 is scheduled to be re-committed to Committee Stage in the Dáil next week. A decision on scheduling the Bill for Report and Final Stages will be made by the Dáil at that juncture.

Before the Bill could be enacted, a 2013 UK Court of Appeal judgment necessitated a review of the disclosure provisions in both the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the Spent Convictions Bill. That review has been completed and amendments to the Vetting Act 2012 and consequential amendments to the Spent Convictions Bill will be brought by me before Committee in the Dáil. Pending the amendment of the Bill, an Administrative Filter for Garda Vetting Disclosures has been introduced, which provides that certain minor offences that are over 7 years old are no longer disclosed.

The principal amendments which I will bring before the Dáil propose giving effect to these procedures by amending both the Spent Convictions Bill and the National Vetting Bureau (Children & Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. However, I also propose retaining the existing provisions in the Spent Convictions Bill which allow more serious convictions which result in penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment to become spent, where persons are not working in positions covered by the Vetting Act 2012. A copy of the Administrative Filter is below.

Garda Vetting Procedures

Administrative Filter

In anticipation of the amendment and commencement of the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012, an administrative filter in respect of Garda Vetting Unit Disclosures will operate in accordance with the following procedural guidelines.

A. Criminal Convictions to be disclosed in all cases:

1)Offences Against the Person.

2)Sexual Offences

3)Convictions on indictment.

B. District Court Convictions which will not be disclosed:

1)Motoring Offences:

District Courtconvictions for motoring offences will not be disclosed after 7 years even where more recent offences have been committed. This is because it is considered that old minor motoring offences would not be relevant due to the passage of time.

2)Minor Public Order Offences:

The following convictions under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 will not be disclosed ifthe offence is over 7 years old even where more recent offences have been committed:

- Section 4 (Intoxication),

- Section 5 (Disorderly conduct),

- Section 6 (Threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour),

- Section 7 (Distribution or display of material which is offensive),

- Section 8 (Failure to comply with direction of Garda),

- Section 9 (Wilful obstruction).

3)Other minor offences – 1 Only:

District Courtconvictions for any other minor offence will not be disclosed after 7 years where the person has one such offence only (excluding motoring or public order offences over 7 years old).

This provision does not apply to offences against the person or to sexual offences.

C. Probation Act Provisions

Where persons have been dealt with by a district court in accordance with the provisions of section 1(1) (i) or 1 (1) (ii) of the Probation Act 1907, the offences will not be disclosed exceptin cases where the circumstances of the offence gives rise to a bona fide concern that the person concerned may harm a child or vulnerable person.

Where persons have been dealt with by a court in accordance with section 1 (2) of the Probation Act, these will be disclosed in all cases. (Section 1 (2) relates solely to persons “convicted on indictment”.)

D. Offences in respect of which a person is charged but subsequently not prosecuted or acquitted.

Non convictions will be consideredfor disclosure where the circumstances of an offence gives rise to a bona fide concern that the person concerned may harm a child or vulnerable person.

This information will only be disclosed if the information is of such a nature that its disclosure is necessary, proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of children or vulnerable persons, or both, as the case may be.

The Garda Central Vetting Unit will make such decision in the context of:

- The information concerned

- The relevance of the information to the type of work/activity

- The source and reliability of the information

- The rights of the vetting applicant and any submissions made by them.

Where the GCVU makes a determination to disclose information under this section the GCVU will:

- Notify the person who is the subject of the application for the vetting disclosure concerned, in writing, of its determination and of the reasons for it,

- Provide to the person a copy of the information to be disclosed,

- Notify the person of the intention to disclose the information to an Authorised Signatory for the registered organisation concerned after the expiry of 14 days from the date of notification, and

- Allow the applicant the opportunity to make a written submission.

- There will also be an appeals process in respect of a decision to disclose the information.

The GCVU will not issue a vetting disclosure in respect of a person until this process has been completed.

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