Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013

Vol. 220 No. 9

Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012: Report and Final Stages

Before we commence, I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except for the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage each amendment must be seconded.

Amendment No. 1 is in the names of Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Fiach Mac Conghail. Amendments Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 2 is an alternative to amendment No. 1. Amendments Nos. 4 to 11, inclusive, form a composite proposal and are alternatives to amendment No. 3. Amendments Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 28, to delete “12 months” and substitute “2 years”.

I note that two important amendments I raised on Second Stage and tabled as amendments on Committee Stage have been incorporated into the Bill by the Government, for which I thank the Minister. It is very important that we now have clarity about the application of the legislation with respect to multiple convictions arising out of one incident or offence. I strongly welcome the extension from 12 months to two years of the maximum applicable sentence for a relevant non-custodial sentence. I hope at a future review of the legislation that this limit will be extended further to allow a greater number of people to avail of the clean-slate second chance the legislation aims to provide.

I thank the Oireachtas Library and Research Service for an excellent Bills Digest and conducting additional research at my request which I will be sharing with the House shortly. I also thank the Irish Penal Reform Trust for providing background information on the case studies which have helped us all and have certainly helped to strengthen my resolve in calling for the most liberal and generous spent convictions legislation possible. For me, this is not about being soft on crime or unduly lenient on offenders. It is about showing foresight and an appreciation of the long-term holistic benefits of encouraging the rehabilitation and re-integration of ex-offenders back into society.

The Minister will be aware, since my initial statement on Second Stage, that I had hoped the Bill would go further. I have tabled a suite of amendments which would see the maximum applicable sentence for a relevant custodial sentence extended from 12 months to two years. I have proposed two years as a compromise between the 12 months in the Bill and the 48 months applied under the UK legislation and now also proposed by my colleagues in Sinn Féin. I have listened carefully to the Government's rationale for holding fast on the 12 months exclusion point. It is welcome that it exceeds the six months recommended by the Law Reform Commission in 2007. Nevertheless, I maintain that 12 months does not go far enough and I will address some of the points raised during Committee Stage in this regard.

First, the Government has pointed out the UK legislation represents the most liberal spent convictions scheme in the common law world and that, in comparison to Australia and New Zealand, what is being proposed in the Bill is liberal. While this is true, it is also true that the United Kingdom has had a 40-year head start on Ireland with regard to spent convictions legislation. During this time, the UK Ministry of Justice has strived to strike the appropriate balance between public safety and reducing barriers to reintegration for those who have moved on from offending behaviour. As the Minister knows, the UK Ministry of Justice commissioned a review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which was called "Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders". This report recommended that the limitation of the spent convictions scheme to 30-month sentences was too restrictive. In response, the UK Government, through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, has reformed the relevant sections of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, setting the limit at 48 months - four years - which is four times the limit proposed in the Bill. On the flip side, I appreciate the schemes in Australia and New Zealand are more restrictive, but I do not see any convincing argument to align ourselves with their position. We need to look at the purpose of the Bill, which is clearly set out in the memorandum as being "to assist the rehabilitation of offenders, who often experience difficulties securing employment as a result of having a conviction", and thinking how best we can achieve this aim. The key question is identifying the maximum sentence for which an ex-offender should be able to avail of second-chance legislation. Surely the more people who fall under the remit of the legislation, the greater the positive impact on ex-offenders and society at large.

That leads me to my second point which concerns the suggestion that the 12-month cut-off point covers almost 90% of all custodial sentences handed down by the courts.

In the light of this figure, I sought information about the number of people who have been convicted of sentences of up to two years. No data are available for how many people have convictions of not more than 12 but fewer than 24 months. Between that one and two year figure, I tried to see what we are talking about. The Courts Service records all sentences of imprisonment up to two years together and then breaks them down for the information based on the type of offences such as assault or theft. The data do not distinguish between sentences of up to 12 months and those of up to 24 months. Figures from the Irish Prison Service provide a partial picture of the amount of people with custodial sentences that may come within the scope of the Bill. However, these figures only look at those serving prison sentences. They are limited in their application as by definition, they exclude those who have received suspended sentences and other sanctions such as community service orders, fines and probation orders.

Taking out the sentences that cannot be spent because of their seriousness such as sexual offences and homicide and bearing in mind that the data are based on the number of committals, not the number of people or sentences, in order that if people are released and recommitted to prison in a given year, they will be counted each time they are committed, 87.2% of the prison population in 2011 would have been eligible to have their convictions spent as they were serving sentences of less than 12 months. A further 4.83% of prisoners could benefit from a spent convictions regime if a sentence of up to two years was eligible to be spent. That would bring the overall percentage of convictions covered by the spent convictions legislation to 92%. I am asking the Minister to move a further 2% in this legislation because he has said this will cover 90% and if we were to go for the two years, it would move it to 92%. It is very interesting that the Courts Service does not record the difference between one and two year sentences which sends a very strong signal that it considers them to be grouped offences. It strengthens my argument in seeking for it to be extended to two years. Such an extension is in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the Bill and would have a significant and positive impact on the lives, futures and families of ex-offenders given sentences of two years and under.

In respect of the Schedule proposed by me, the overall rationale for this part of my amendment is that the proposed rehabilitative periods of four to five years and two to four years, respectively, for relative custodial and non-custodial sentences are much welcomed improvements on the periods proposed in the Bill, as initiated. I do not intend to push this amendment to a vote. I feel strongly that in order to achieve the objective of the Bill, as set out in the accompanying explanatory memorandum, the Bill needs to be as generous as possible. I have wondered whether in taking the more conservative approach, the Government has been afraid of accusations of undue leniency and being soft on crime. I can understand the concerns given public concern over crime, the fear of crime and the impact of crime on people's quality of life. This legislation which encourages rehabilitation and reintegration of former offenders and must be implemented with a raft of other interventions such as rehabilitation, treatment and reintegration measures is a tool to make society safer and fairer for us all. A less restrictive spent convictions regime negating as far as possible against the negative, far-reaching and often discriminatory consequences for ex-offenders and their families would also reflect the qualities of compassion and forgiveness in Irish society.

I am aware of research conducted by the Home Office in the UK into reconviction rates. This research suggests that if an individual has not reoffended in the first two years post-conviction, he or she is at equal risk of future offending as someone with a previous conviction. This finding is in keeping with the fact that in UK legislation the conviction-free or rehabilitative period at the lowest end of the offending scale is two years. The length of time required for rehabilitation must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence committed, but it should not be so long as to constitute an additional and disproportionate punishment. It has been very clear on Second and Committee Stages that all of us in this House welcome and support this legislation. The amendments I am putting forward allow us to go a little further and give more people an opportunity to go for that pathway of rehabilitation and having a second chance and a new start in life.

That is why I urge the Minister to consider increasing the limit for an excluded sentence from 12 months to two years. I have examined the figures and I am of the view that if the changes I have suggested were accepted, 92% would be covered by the legislation. I ask the Minister to give some in-depth consideration to this matter.

Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Go ginearálta, táimid i bhfábhar an Bhille seo agus táimid ag teacht, don chuid is mó, leis atá an Seanadóir van Turnhout ag cur chun cinn, ach amháín go bhfuil muid ag caint faoi 48 mí, seachas 12 mí.

We are recommending, very much in line with what Senator Jillian van Turnhout stated-----

Does the Senator wish to formally second the amendment? It must be seconded at this point.

I formally second the amendment.

We have put forward a number of amendments which are very much in line with what Senator Jillian van Turnhout has outlined. One of our amendments suggests that lines 31 to 33 on page 5 of the Bill be deleted and replaced with the following formation, namely, "(a) of imprisonment for a term of more than 48 months, irrespective of whether that sentence is suspended in whole or in part". As the legislation stands, only those who have had a custodial sentence of less than 12 months imposed can have their convictions deemed spent. We are opposed to this and are thus seeking an amendment to extend the period to 48 months. On Committee Stage we stated that it should be 30 months, but we have revised the figure upwards on the basis of the submission of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, IPRT, on the legislation. The period in Britain and the North is 48 months and it is important that we should have consistency, as far as possible, between North and South. The Good Friday Agreement requires equivalence in terms of human rights protections and this is also a consideration, particularly as the legislation before the House relates to the right of prisoners to be reintegrated into society.

There has been a solid system of spent convictions in Britain for 40 years since the enactment of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. It was only on the basis of experience that the British extended the period to 48 months. This is because they were of the view that 30 months was too restrictive. However, we are only considering a period of 12 months in this regard. There is no public safety issue discernible in this instance and we are of the view that the proposed period is too restrictive.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to ensure minor offences will not follow an individual for his or her life or hinder a person in gaining employment. Getting people into gainful employment is crucial in the context of tackling recidivism and offers an incentive to individuals to prove they are reformed and can return to being productive members of society. It, therefore, offers people an incentive to avoid crime. As the IPRT has highlighted, this limit could be raised without any risk to public safety or of diminishing the punishments handed down by the courts.

The idea of spent convictions is to ensure rehabilitation. We must support successful efforts to move on from offending behaviour by removing barriers to participation in employment, education and other aspects of daily life. The barriers to which I refer are real. Studies indicate that 48% of employers would not take on somebody with a criminal record. A survey carried out by the Small Firms Association shows that between 76% and 87% of firms would not employ an ex-offender. In such circumstances, it is not easy to achieve reintegration. As Senator David Cullinane highlighted on Committee Stage, the Minister has improved on the original, restrictive form the Bill took. The period should be extended further. While not neglecting the fact that these sentences could be the consequence of serious offences, they could also be the outcome of offences which would not indicate that those who committed them are an ongoing threat to the public. Very often, such people do not pose such a threat.

On Committee Stage, the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who was standing in for the Minister, stated the Government was not prepared to go further than the maximum 12-month custodial sentence. That is regrettable and I urge the Minister to reconsider the position. The Minister of State indicated her view that the British legislation is the most liberal in common law jurisdictions. However, the IPRT has emphasised that such comparisons are not particularly useful. Australia is a federal state with no uniform approach to crime, punishment or the reintegration of offenders. New Zealand makes greater use of restorative justice methods, thereby offering offenders a second chance very early on in the criminal process and ensuring that prison is seen as a sentence of last resort only. While civil law systems are legally distinct, the principles and policy objectives are the same nonetheless.

According to a 2009 research report by KPMG entitled, Disclosure of Criminal Records in Overseas Jurisdictions, which dealt with expungement schemes, in countries such as France, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and Italy, the individual who is the subject of the criminal record search is generally the only person allowed to request the information. The report also states the European emphasis, particularly in France, is more on an individual's right to be forgotten than on the employer's right to know, which is the common law model that has inspired the Irish approach.

There are similar approaches all over Europe. I ask the Minister to consider this point and to accept our amendments. My colleague, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, will be considering an amendment to the effect that the definition of "relevant non-custodial sentences" in section 1 of the Bill will include all sentences which are suspended in whole and which are not subsequently revoked. There is a clear point to be considered in that regard in that these sentences have been suspended for a reason. However, that issue can await further discussion on Committee Stage in the Dáil.

If we truly believe in the ability of the prison system to achieve any form of rehabilitation we need to ensure that prisoners can reintegrate in cases where they are not a threat. Employment is absolutely central in that regard. It is crucial to ensure the reintegration of former prisoners who have genuinely sought to improve their lives on release. Our amendment No. 3 states:

In page 4, to delete lines 2 to 38 and substitute the following:

“ “relevant custodial sentence”, in relation to a person convicted of an offence, means a sentence or sentences of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less imposed by a court on the person in respect of the offence (whether or not a fine is also imposed on the person in respect of the offence) and includes—

(a) a sentence in respect of the offence that is imposed concurrently with another sentence or sentences of imprisonment provided that the longer, or the longest of the sentences is 48 months or less,

(b) a sentence that is imposed consecutively with another sentence or sentences of imprisonment provided that the total period of imprisonment is 48 months,

(c) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of a part of which is suspended by the court,

(d) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of a part of which is suspended for a period specified by the court but which suspension is subsequently revoked in whole, or in part by the court,

(e) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of the whole of which is suspended for a period specified by the court but which suspension is subsequently revoked in whole or part by the court;

(f) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of the whole of which is suspended for a period specified by the court and that suspension is not subsequently revoked in whole or in part by the court,”.

This has the same effect as the previous amendment in that we are making the same argument in this case. It will help people to have the opportunity to get their lives back on track and to enter the workplace. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tAire ábalta na moltaí seo a thógáil ar bord agus glacadh leo le gach dea-mhéin, agus tá súil agam go dtógfaidh sé ar bord iad sa reachtaíocht.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I support the general comments by Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Trevodr Ó Clochartaigh. The Bill is a major step forward and a positive initiative to give people a second chance. It will ensure people are not left for a lifetime with a minor offence hanging over them, making it difficult for them to access employment. Some very good points have been raised by speakers about whether we are even at that stage. However, it is a progressive initiative. As Senator Jillian van Turnhout said, we need to learn from the English system which as been in place for a long time. We need to ensure the balance is correct.

I refer to section 15 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 which provides for very severe penalties for possession of drugs. A young person in his or her late teens or early 20s may have been charged with possession of drugs but may then turn his or her life around. I know people who have gone to great lengths to do so. Extra rehabilitation programmes are available in my own area. I presented certificates last year at the Laneview programme in Darndale to people who have spent serious time in prison. They got into trouble with drugs and their lives spiralled out of control. Now they have taken steps to turn their lives around. They have joined education and work experience programmes in an effort to build a better life for themselves and for their families. I agree it is better for all of us and safer for society as a whole if people are supported and are given the opportunity for rehabilitation and a second chance. I am concerned that a person who may have served a prison sentence for a drugs offence but is able to prove that he or she has not been in trouble for a long time may fall foul of the 12 month limit in this legislation.

I raise the same issue and seek the Minister's guidance on it. Does he genuinely believe the balance is right? I am not sure about the four year proposal, but the two years proposal appears to be very reasonable. The statistics given by Senator Jillian van Turnhout that support that proposition are also reasonable. I look forward to the Minister's response.

I thank Senators for their contributions and accept that they are anxious to ensure this legislation has the intended effect. I am also conscious that as this is our first time to enact legislation in the State on spent convictions, we must be careful how we deal with it and ensure we approach matters in an appropriate way.

It has been suggested Northern Ireland has applied the UK regime. It has not. Not only has it not applied it, but I also understand there is no intention of applying it. It is not the case, therefore, that in Northern Ireland the timeframes which have been articulated as being applicable in England are also applicable there.

The Government gave a great deal of consideration to the length of custodial sentence to be covered by the Bill. I discussed this issue on Second Stage. It is dealt with primarily through the definition of "excluded sentence" and "relevant custodial sentence" in the Bill. With regard to the length of sentence to be covered or the length of time a person must wait before a conviction becomes spent, there is no absolute answer or piece of research which states a specific and the only way to go. As is clear from the brief survey carried out by Senator Jillian van Turnhout, there are different provisions in place in different parts of the world. I could spend some time detailing the variety of provisions in other jurisdictions that have not yet been mentioned.

I respect the sincerity of Senators in seeking to refine the proposal made in the Bill. I realise they genuinely wish to ensure the Bill will be of the greatest possible benefit to those it aims to assist. That is also my objective. However, it is worth going back to the beginning to outline how we arrived at the 12 month limit on the length of custodial sentence. The genesis of the spent convictions legislation dates back to the Law Reform Commission report of 2007 which was based on the usual high quality research and analysis that characterise the work of the commission. It found that in most Australian states only sentences of six months or less were covered, while in New Zealand custodial sentences could never be spent. In other countries such as Canada a person must apply to the courts to have a conviction declared spent and there is no automatic granting of the order.

The Law Reform Commission report was written at a time when the United Kingdom allowed sentences of up 30 months to be spent. I understand that is the provision in place in Northern Ireland. The Law Reform Commission recommended that in the case of Ireland only sentences of six months or less should be covered and advised against an application based system. An automatic system is provided for in the circumstances detailed in the Bill, without the necessity of persons reverting to the courts. The Government gave much thought to the balance to be achieved. There are two variables when considering the question of sentences - the length of sentence covered by the scheme and the length of time before the sentence can become spent. The Law Reform Commission report recommended that sentences of up to six months or less be covered and that an offender who was sentenced to six months imprisonment wait seven years before the conviction could become spent.

The Government decided to err on the side of generosity. Where the length of sentence to be covered was concerned, it settled on a figure of 12 months, double the duration recommended by the Law Reform Commission. A consideration for the Government in settling on the figure of 12 months was that it was the maximum sentence that could be handed down at District Court level, an important fault line between serious and less serious offences. With regard to the waiting periods, the Bill also went further than what the commission had recommended. I tabled amendments on Committee Stage which was dealt with by the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, in the House last week which reduced the waiting periods further. The waiting period of seven years recommended by the Law Reform Commission in the case of a six month sentence is now four.

We need to gain experience of how this legislation works, to see it settle down, to monitor how it works, to have some sense over a period of years of whether the fact that convictions become spent after a particular period results in individuals returning to criminality and of how acceptable it is to employers. For a whole range of reasons which I have given, I am sorry to say I cannot accept the amendments tabled. I hope Senators will welcome the fact that this is a fundamental reform in our criminal law which is designed to facilitate people in getting back an additional bit of their lives, that is, their reputation, after experiencing a prison sentence but then behaving themselves by not being convicted again for a period of time. This will effect a fundamental change and we need it to bed down and be acceptable to the wider community. This may be an issue that may have to be revisited in five or six years time after the legislation has been enacted when there is a sense of how it is working in practice.

The case for covering longer sentences put forward by Senators is based on some suggestion the Government's approach is conservative. The Government's approach is conservative only if compared to the recent reform in the United Kingdom. Even then, the charge of conservatism is open to question. I seriously challenge it. In reality, what we are proposing is liberal by comparison with measures in the rest of the common-law world and the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. Even in regard to the United Kingdom, there is evidence that suggests its sentences are longer and that its 48-month threshold covers only a marginally higher proportion of prisoners than our 12 month limit.
Some 75% of prisoners committed to Irish prisons are serving sentences of six months or less. According to the UK Ministry of Justice's offender management statistics quarterly bulletin, for the third quarter of last year, just 50% of prisoners in English and Welsh prisons had been sentenced to six months or less. Therefore, there is a 25% difference in that context. Some 89% of those received in prison in England and Wales had been sentenced to four years or less, whereas our 12 month cut-off would have covered 86% of committals to Irish prisons in 2011. If one is examining the proportion to which there is a possibility of a conviction being spent, one will realise there is almost a state of concurrence between our system and that in the United Kingdom. The UK courts have a different sentencing policy and, at the lower end, it appears they impose higher sanctions than ours. Our proposal is not a conservative approach that some have claimed it to be. It is liberal and generous and stands comparison with what most will agree is the most liberal regime in the common-law world, namely, that of England.
The Government is not prepared to accept amendments Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, for the following reasons. The Bill is already finely balanced between the sentences that are excluded and the waiting period before sentences become spent. The 12 month limit aligns the Bill with the jurisdiction of the District Court which deals with less serious summary offences. The 12 month limit on sentences covers 86% of committals to Irish prisons and stands fair comparison with the regime in England and Wales. Most common-law countries cover shorter sentences and have far longer waiting periods. The proposal is balanced, fair and generous.
As Minister for Justice and Equality, I must be conscious that a sentence that is serious enough to warrant trial by jury is one that should not be readily spent. There are various reasons for this. We could have an interesting debate in this House on whether the objectives of penal policy are rehabilitative or reforming, and whether they serve as a deterrent. I am also conscious that the criminal justice system must be accepted by the wider community. It sees deterrents as comprising an important objective, in addition to the objectives that we in the Houses all want to see, namely, less recidivism and people emerging from prison concluding, for one reason or another, that continuing with a life of crime is not necessarily good for them and that it is clearly bad the community. There has to be a deterrent. If people feel a very serious crime will be wiped off the record within four or five years such that they can then get on with their lives, they may feel that the consequences will not really be that drastic if they are caught. This reduces the level of deterrence. It could create problems in circumstances where convictions are spent and where one is offered employment by well meaning individuals who know nothing of one's background and who find that background concealed from them. It is a matter of achieving a balance and there is no monopoly of wisdom.
Amendment No. 11, in the names of Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Mac Fiach Conghail, is consequential on amendments Nos. 4 to 10. I am not in a position to accept it either. Since this is new legislation, since no such legislation was enacted successfully by a previous Government and since we have not had experience of it working, it is important that we do something different from the Law Reform Commission said and ensure that it applies generally to those who may find they would be sentenced in the District Court. As we know, the Circuit Criminal Court may impose a sentence of one year or less. It is not compulsory that it impose a sentence.

I acknowledge what I consider to be ground-breaking legislation. Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh have done an amount of research on their amendments. It is interesting to hear about the contrast with the position in the United Kingdom where legislation has been brought forward recently which is, as the Minister has said, the most liberal. Ours is also liberal. I agree with the sentiments expressed that we have taken ground-breaking steps, but further steps will be taken. For now, we need to bed down this legislation.

The Fine Gael group has tabled a motion on the issue of restorative justice which will give the House the opportunity to have a comprehensive debate on it and its benefits. The pilot schemes in operation in south County Dublin and County Tipperary must be acknowledged. A lot of work is being done on the issue of restorative justice, a concept the Government could develop.

I commend the Minister for bringing this legislation forward and, I hope, getting it through the Houses. I also commend the officials who have been involved in its drafting and assisting the Minister in that regard.

All of us who have spoken have acknowledged that this is ground-breaking legislation, the fact that it will impact on so many people and their families and give them a second chance. As I have no doubt that if the Minister was in our position, he would try to push it that little bit further, I ask him to look at our amendments in that light. I have looked at other common law countries and certainly agree with his comparison. It is very difficult in that we cannot compare Ireland to civil law countries, but if we look at our partners in the European Union and having a consistent policy on giving offenders a second chance, this is not the most liberal and we could go a little further to give people a second chance and the opportunity to have a clean slate.

It is welcome that the Minister has said we need to put the legislation in place and monitor and evaluate it to see whether we can go further. I am very happy to share my research and figures in this regard. It is very interesting that the Courts Service does not distinguish between figures in the under two years category. There is something in this, which was partly my reason for choosing the period of two years in my amendment. Will the Minister look again at this issue before he brings the legislation to the Dáil?

I will not press my amendments today because I want to show my utmost and fullest support for the legislation. Equally, I have tried to think of the people who are caught outside of the loop. As I said, it ranges from the 90% to 92% and I want to push it a little further in order that we would include up to two years. As I support the legislation, I will not press my amendment. I am aware that the legislation must go through the Dáil and ask the Minister to give it consideration.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I propose an amendment to the Order of the Business that we conclude Report Stage at 5 p.m. because we started 20 minutes late.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, to delete lines 2 to 38 and substitute the following:

“ “relevant custodial sentence”, in relation to a person convicted of an offence, means a sentence or sentences of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less imposed by a court on the person in respect of the offence (whether or not a fine is also imposed on the person in respect of the offence) and includes—

(a) a sentence in respect of the offence that is imposed concurrently with another sentence or sentences of imprisonment provided that the longer,

or the longest of the sentences is 48 months or less,

(b) a sentence that is imposed consecutively with another sentence or sentences of imprisonment provided that the total period of imprisonment

is 48 months,

(c) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of a part of which is suspended by the court,

(d) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of a part of which is suspended for a period specified by the court but

which suspension is subsequently revoked in whole, or in part by the court,

(e) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of the whole of which is suspended for a period specified by the court but

which suspension is subsequently revoked in whole or part by the court;

“relevant non-custodial sentence” in relation to a person convicted of an offence means a sentence imposed by a court on the person in respect of an offence that is not a custodial sentence and is not in addition to a custodial sentence and includes—

(a) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 48 months or less, the execution of the whole of which is suspended for a period specified by the court

and that suspension is not subsequently revoked in whole or in part by the court,”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 4 to 11, inclusive, not moved.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank Members of the Seanad for the detailed consideration that they gave to the Bill and the time that they clearly spent on it, but that is not the right word in the circumstances. I thank them for the time they have taken to table and consider amendments which is always a helpful and useful exercise. I hope it is understood that I listened. As a consequence of the debate that has taken place, Members will know that there have been some changes made to the Bill. I look forward to taking the Bill to the Dáil and hope it will be enacted in the not too distant future.

I thank the Minister for this historic legislation. It was long promised, but he has delivered. This legislation on spent convictions will bring us into line with our European partners. I know that the Minister has played a strong role and hand in ensuring we have a rehabilitation system and restorative justice. The legislation is testimony to this and I support it. During the debates in the House on Second Stage, Committee Stage and today on Report Stage we have shown how we can constructively engage in dialogue. Equally, I pay tribute to the Minister for engaging with us in that dialogue and trying to tease through the arguments to ensure we have the best legislation. I greatly appreciate that when he attends, he engages extremely constructively with us, for which I thank him.

I thank the Minister, but I acknowledge the work that was done by his predecessor, Dermot Ahern, who initiated work on the legislation. It is the Minister who brought it through the House today. This is important legislation which will make a big difference to people who have made mistakes but who have worked hard to turn their lives around and deserve a second chance. It is great to pass legislation that is so progressive and important. It will make a difference to people who have worked hard and deserve a second chance.

Ba mhaith liomsa, chomh maith, buíochas a ghabháil leis an Aire as ucht éisteacht chruinn a thabhairt dúinn ar na céimeanna éagsúla den Bhille. I also note that the Minister said on Report State that he would reconsider the Bill as it went into force and was practised, particularly the length of time involved. I welcome his comments and I am sure that he will, if he sees a need during the course of time, review the length of time involved in the case of spent convictions. Fáiltímid roimh an reachtaíocht mar tá sé ag teastáil go géar.

Question put and agreed to.