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03/14/2013 12:00:00 AM


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Hayes, Tom

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Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

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Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

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Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

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Deputy Tom Hayes

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Tom Hayes

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Snippet Contents:

I welcome the Bill, which is long overdue. It is important that we have a mature discussion on it. Its consideration here is opportune because it has been discussed by many people over a lengthy period. The reasons for introducing it are many and varied. A spent convictions system means that an adult who has been convicted of a certain type of offence does not have to disclose this offence after a set amount of time. Spent convictions apply to both custodial and non-custodial sentences. It does not mean that the record of the conviction is deleted; rather, that it can only be accessed and made public in certain circumstances. There are numerous exceptions to non-disclosure rules. Only convictions resulting in sentences of 12 months or less are capable of being spent under this Bill. I wonder about the setting of the 12-month period. What thought went into that decision? I ask the Minister of State to explain the reason a period of 12 months was decided upon. There are people who committed crimes in their younger days for which they were given custodial sentences of more than 12 months, but who have now got their lives back together and got jobs and are working hard to support their families. They have worked with other people in their communities and they are remorseful for what they did in the past. I wonder if the 12-month period provided for in the Bill is too strict. In that respect, there are convincing arguments to be made. Like every other public representative, I deal with people in my clinics who have been sentenced, are remorseful for having committed an offence and want to do something about it. They want to improve themselves and take up another job but because of the conviction they cannot get one. That is problem facing ordinary people who in these difficult times are only trying to work to support their families. I recently met a man who was an example in this respect in the way he was looking after his elderly parents at home. He wanted to improve his lot but a conviction from many years ago was still preventing him from getting certain work.
We need to be braver in what we are doing in this Bill, because it could improve the quality of people's lives and help many people. As society is developing and the public are more accepting of the fact that people can make mistakes and later want to improve their lot, we should be more open in the way we approach people with such convictions.
I noted the figures given by Deputy Stanton. In 2011 there were 11,187 prison committals for a term of less than 12 months, which made up 87% of the total number of people who were committed to prison. Therefore, this Bill can benefit a large number of people.
We need to be brave in what we are doing. This is an excellent Bill that can benefit a large number of people. There are many people under the radar who would be shy about coming forward about what they have been involved in, but if they came forward their lives would be much better and that would benefit society. An important aspect is the benefit these people can provide to society. In addition, people who have been in trouble in the past and who have got their lives together can be a good example to young people, whether they were involved in drugs, drink driving or anything else. The example such people would give to young people is relevant to this Bill. It is a strong reason for putting this Bill through, and I have no doubt that is what we will do. The provisions of the Bill can benefit society and the people concerned, and those people can be an example to young people. I fully support the Bill, but I ask the Minister to clarify the position on the question I raised.