Thursday, 30 May 2013

Questions (207)

Dara Calleary


207. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 will be initiated; if a person who was convicted of cannabis possession in 2005 will have their conviction spent under the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26346/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

In relation to the timeframe for the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012, I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 210 of 22 May 2013, copy under.

As regards a conviction for the possession of cannabis, the Bill's provisions are based on the sentence imposed rather than on the offence committed. Sentences of 12 months or less are covered by the Bill and the longest rehabilitation period is 5 years. There is a limit of 2 on the number of convictions that may become spent and the spent convictions regime does not apply where the person is applying for certain employments or licences.

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 is awaiting Report Stage in the Dáil. It has passed all stages in the Seanad. The Bill is intended to work in harmony with the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. However, elements of that Act concerning the disclosure of convictions are under review at present having regard to a recent judgment of the UK Court of Appeal in (On the Application of) T and others v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester [2013]. The Court considered the circumstances in which it is appropriate to disclose convictions for minor offences with particular regard to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. While the judgment concerns legislation that differs from the 2012 Act and the proposed Bill, I take the view that the legal principles identified by the Court in relation to the application of Article 8 merit consideration.

In the event that some modifications are required to the 2012 Act my intention is to bring them forward by way of amendment to the Bill and to make any consequential changes to the Bill itself that are required to ensure that the two regimes work in harmony. Until this work is complete I am not in a position to give an indication of the likely timing of Report Stage. However, I am conscious of the importance of the Bill to the reintegration of offenders and I will endeavour to ensure that there is no undue delay.