‘Spent convictions is best way to reduce re-offending’

By Mary Dennehy

SENATOR Lynn Ruane’s spent convictions reform bill, which she believes could support the creation of a regime that allows people with minor convictions to demonstrate their capacity for change, has been passed by the Seanad. 

Earlier this month, the Independent senator launched the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill – which would ‘expand the very limited Irish spent convictions regime introduced in 2016’.

Lynn Ruane headshot

Tallaght senator Lynn Ruane 

A spent conviction is a conviction that, when it meets certain criteria, does not legally have to be disclosed in certain circumstances like applying to return to education, for a new job or to be Garda vetted.

“As a community worker, I saw first-hand people being turned away from professions such as social work due to old, minor convictions to which they could have brought a wealth of personal and lived experience,” Senator Ruane said.

“We need to get the balance right between protecting the public interest and affording the individual a real second chance.

“Our current law does not get this balance right – it’s not fair, not proportionate and it’s not working.

“We need a spent conviction regime that allows people to demonstrate their capacity to change their behaviour, engage in major personal rehabilitation and leave minor criminal records in the past.

“That’s why I’m bringing this legislation forward.”

She added: “We all benefit socially and economically from people with former convictions being able to reintegrate into society.

“The international evidence shows that a fair spent convictions regime is one of the best ways to reduce re-offending, break the cycle of criminality and give people hope at a dark time in their lives by giving them a chance to redeem themselves.”

Last Wednesday evening, February 13, the bill was debated in Seanad Eireann, during which Senator Ruane sought cross party support for its proposed reforms to the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016.

In a Tweet after the debate, Senator Ruane said: "The Seanad has unanimously passed my Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill. 

"So grateful for the support, our spent convictions regime needs to be fair and accessible and that's what this bill is all about." 

To read the bill and its proposals visit www.lynnruane.ie.

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