The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 was passed in the Dáil on the 27th January 2016, and passed at final stage in the Seanad on 3rd February 2016. The legislation which could commence as early as April 2016 will become known as the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016.
It will essentially have the effect of allowing certain minor convictions of more than 7 years old to become ‘spent’ and no longer be declared. The Act will benefit people who have old convictions and want to move on with their lives. It removes barriers to employment, education, training, housing and insurance for people who have moved on from past offending behaviour.
Under the legislation, when commenced, convictions may be spent after 7 years:
Where a person has a conviction that can be categorised as a spent conviction, they will not be required by law or by any agreement which purports to require the person to disclose the conviction or the circumstances surrounding it to disclose such. Any offences excluded from vetting disclosures under the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 because they are not relevant should also be spent convictions.
This legislation will play a vital role for people in many situations, including those who may have committed a minor offence in their teenage years and that has come back to haunt them later in life, especially in the context of the Garda vetting system.
It is regrettable however that the legislation will be of no assistance to people who committed more than one offence (other than minor motoring/public order offences) in the past, no matter how long ago the offences were committed.