STATEMENT: New rules for minor offences critical step in justice reform

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The Green Party has today welcomed the news that the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 will proceed to Second Stage in Dáil Éireann.

During Government negotiations, the Green Party fought to ensure that there was a clear commitment to progressing reform for minor offences in the Programme for Government and is very pleased to see it progressing.

Green Party Spokesperson for Justice and TD for Dublin South-Central, Deputy Patrick Costello, commented;

“It is commonly accepted that society benefits greatly from the reintegration and rehabilitation of those with a conviction, while reducing recidivism. The limits of the current law have a disproportionate impact on marginalised and disadvantaged communities. This reform is necessary in order to ensure an approach that is proportionate and reasonable, giving ex-offenders a real opportunity at redemption whilst ensuring that we continue to protect the vulnerable in society.

“This important Bill was first introduced in the Seanad in 2018 by Senator Lynn Ruane, and the Green Party subsequently fought hard for its inclusion in Programme for Government negotiations last year. I want to congratulate my colleague, Minister Roderic O’Gorman, for his crucial work in ensuring this Bill’s inclusion in the Programme For Government and I look forward to supporting it in the Dáil.”

The Bill is supported by research carried out by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, which found that the regime for spent convictions was inadequate. The majority of respondents to a survey, all with conviction histories, said their conviction had a negative impact on finding a job and volunteering while a significant number reported an impact on accessing insurance and education.

Deputy Costello added;

“A criminal record can inhibit a person’s opportunity to access work and housing and prevent individuals from participating fully in their communities. Allowing people who have demonstrated that they are no longer participating in criminal activities to have their conviction deemed “spent” will promote a penal system that places its emphasis on reform and rehabilitation rather than punishment, which is crucial to breaking the cycle of reoffending.”

The Bill seeks to widen the eligibility of the convictions that can become spent and adjusts rehabilitation periods so that they are more proportionate to the sanction received. The Bill also proposes a different approach for young adult offenders aged 18 to 23.

Deputy Costello concluded;

“This reflects policy trends across Europe and is grounded in the evidence of what works to reduce reoffending among young adults. The intended impact of the legislation is to reduce the extent to which individuals are restricted in life opportunities by old convictions for relatively minor offences, and better enables them to move on in their lives and to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.”