In 2019, the IPRT conducted a small-scale survey on living with convictions.
Among those who completed the survey, employment was the issue of most concern, with 81% (120) of respondents stating that having a conviction has had a negative impact on ‘getting a job’.
Other issues negatively impacted by having a conviction were:
- Travel (emigration) for 56% (83),
- Volunteering for 53% (79),
- Travel (holidays) for 41% (60),
- Car/home/personal insurance for 39% (58),
- Access to education for 29% (43),
- Getting a promotion for 18% (26), and
- Insurance for employment for 17% (25).
Only 3% said that their convictions have had no negative impact on their lives. Of these, two had been convicted of just one offence.
Concern was raised by several respondents about the impact of the internet/media on their convictions. “The internet means that the conviction was/will always be just yesterday,” said one respondent.
Those surveyed also raised concerns about the impact their convictions have had on their families
The IPRT says that legislation which was being considered prior to the calling of the general election at the start of the year should be re-instated, as amended, so that people who have turned their lives around can get jobs, enter education, volunteer, and participate fully in the community.
The submission also calls for equality legislation to be broadened to ensure that offences that are long past are not dragged up and used as unfair barriers against those who have moved away from offending.
The IPRT recommendations are:
1) Reintroduce the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018, as amended (20 November 2019),
2) Increase the upper limit of eligible sentences to a minimum of 48 months’ custodial sentence, and introduce a review mechanism by which convictions that are not eligible for automatic expungement might become spent on a case-by-case basis,
3) Remove the limit on the number of eligible convictions that can become spent,
4) Develop a proportionate scale that links the rehabilitative period to the severity of the sentence imposed,
5) Treat young adults as a distinct cohort within the legislation, including providing for shorter rehabilitative periods,
6) Any decision to exclude any broad category of offence or area of employment must be justified by empirical evidence. Establish an independent oversight committee to review decisions to disclose convictions information,
7) Extend the grounds of discrimination in the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 to include a broad prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of convictions. Section 55 of the Charities Act 2009 should be amended to reduce disproportionate barriers for people with convictions from participating on charitable boards, and
8) Changes to the legislation should be accompanied by a public-information campaign.
Publishing the submission, IPRT executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said: “Offending behaviour often occurs when someone is going through a very difficult period of their lives. Poverty, trauma, loss of a job, homelessness and addiction are just some of pressure points which can lead to offending and a criminal conviction.
“Having a criminal record in Ireland, even for a less serious offence, can amount to a disproportionate lifelong punishment. By offering the opportunity to make a fresh start by not having to disclose minor old convictions, we can help people turn their lives around and enhance public safety. This is particularly important for young people.
“We are making recommendations to Government which can provide this opportunity. We believe our proposals strike the right balance of justice for past offending, the opportunity for rehabilitation, and legal protections so that long-forgotten crimes do not continue to haunt a person for the rest of their life.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has also said a more inclusive spent-convictions scheme, with increased sentence thresholds and a review mechanism for more serious offences, would significantly aid offender rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
The commission has today published its recommendations to Government on the review of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosure) Act 2016.
Ireland’s national equality body is recommending that equality legislation be changed to include discrimination on the ground of criminal conviction.