Vic government urged to consider spent convictions scheme
The Law Institute of Victoria has called on the state government to consider laws that will wipe the criminal record of people who have committed certain ‘low level’ offences, with a new spent convictions scheme.
LIV has backed recommendations for Victoria to introduce a spent convictions scheme in line with other states.
The practical effect of a spent convictions scheme is to allow a person who has a criminal record of low level offences to have their record ‘wiped clean’. Offences considered to be ‘low level’ would include charges such as minor shoplifting, possession of cannabis or the fraudulent use of a state transit concession card.
The scheme would mean that an eligible offender’s records would be expunged of minor offences after a number of years.
According to a new report released by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project, the scheme helps offenders find employment and participate more fully in the community.
LIV president Belinda Wilson said that the time has come for Victoria to legislate such a scheme, in line with the rest of Australia.
“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,” Ms Wilson said.
The LIV president accepted that the initial punishment imposed for a proven offences were both right and just. However, she noted that once that punishment has been served, it should not prevent an offender from rehabilitating and reintegrating into society.
“Charges [wiped under the scheme] 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,” Ms Wilson said.
In Victoria, 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.
Ms Wilson added that the current status quo in Victoria, where police have the discretion to choose which parts of a person’s criminal record is disclosed in a criminal check, must change.
“An individual’s prior convictions, no matter how minor, can follow a person around forever.
“This is of particular concern given the growing use of criminal history checks in pre-employment assessments,” Ms Wilson said.
The recent report released by Liberty Victoria based on a 2015 submission by LIV argued Victoria should align itself with the Commonwealth and other states to implement spent convictions legislation.
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.
“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.