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Time to remove stigma of old minor offences records – LIV

Time to remove stigma of old minor offences records – LIV

By LIV Media

Civil Rights Discrimination Legislation Punishment 

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The Law Institute of Victoria is urging the state government to consider legislation for a spent convictions scheme in Victoria, following the release of a report by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project.

Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not have a scheme to wipe clean a person's criminal record of low level offences after a certain period, impeding their prospects of finding employment and participating fully in the community, the report by the Rights Advocacy Project pointed out.

The report is based on a 2015 LIV submission that argued that Victoria must catch up with other states and the Commonwealth to implement spent convictions legislation that would expunge historical records of minor offences after a number of years. The LIV submission called for findings of guilt without conviction and less serious and irrelevant convictions to be removed from a person’s criminal record after 10 years for adult convictions and three years for juvenile convictions.

The Victorian Labor Party took a commitment to the 2014 election to look at legislating a spent convictions scheme, but nothing has been done to take this further. In February this year the Greens Party introduced a private members bill based on the LIV’s submission. The Bill is yet to be given leave for a second reading.

LIV president Belinda Wilson said it was time such a scheme was legislated to bring Victoria in line with the rest of the country. “The lack of a formal spent convictions scheme is leaving Victorians susceptible to discrimination and undermining their ability to rehabilitate and fully participate in community life,” she said.

Currently Victoria Police has discretion as to what information is disclosed within a criminal record check. Any crime a person has been found guilty of, even in cases of non-conviction, will still show up on their record. Pending charges, where a person has not yet been found guilty, may also appear.

It was unsatisfactory to leave to the discretion of police the decision as to whether such minor criminal offences should be disclosed after a period of time, Ms Wilson said.

“That means an individual’s prior convictions, no matter how minor, can follow a person around forever,” she said. “This is of particular concern given the growing use of criminal history checks in pre-employment assessments.”

It is important to remember that not everyone who has a criminal record is a serious offender and that most people do not offend again – especially when they have not reoffended for a significant period, Ms Wilson said.

"Charges might relate to behaviour that occurred during a lapse of judgment, a period of difficulty, mental health issues, or during a phase of a person’s life that they may have moved on from by the time the charges are heard by the court.”

While any initial punishment imposed for a proven offence is right and just, once it had been served it should not prevent an offender from rehabilitating and reintegrating into society, Ms Wilson said.

The current policy impacts especially on young people and on Aboriginal people, who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice scheme, often for minor offences. 

Examples of such offences include possession of cannabis, minor shop stealing, or using a concession Myki card without possessing a concession card, an offence considered to be fraud.

Contact

LIV Media

E: media@liv.asn.au
T: 9607 9389


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