We support a spent convictions scheme

We support a spent convictions scheme

Monday, 5 August 2019

Casey’s (not their real name) story highlights the damaging legacy a criminal history can have on people who are no longer committing criminal offences. A criminal record can make it difficult for people to get employment and rehabilitate, many years after a person’s involvement with the justice system. It’s why we have supported a legislated spent convictions in our submission to the Spent Convictions Inquiry 

A few years ago, Casey was involved in criminal offending, ‘I found myself in a dark place,’ Casey reflected. This was the first time Casey had used drugs or broken the law.

Following her conviction, Casey was placed on a Community Corrections Order that put her on a pathway towards rehabilitation and supported her recovery from substance dependence and mental health issues. Casey successfully completed her order and her life was finally starting to get back on track, with programs ‘that helped me get myself and my family back.’

That was until she notified her employer of her conviction. Casey lost her job, and suddenly found it impossible to find another job. ‘Each time I was told “Sorry Casey, if only it was not for your criminal record…”’

Casey’s criminal record continued to operate as a barrier to moving on with her life and making the contribution she wanted to make to her community.

‘Every job I applied for, I got knocked back for my criminal record even though it didn’t relate to the work I was applying for. Because this was okay under the law and there was no time limit on when my criminal record would show my offending, I fell into despair – without a stable job I loved I could not get myself and family out of financial insecurity. I could not move on my life.’

Unlike all other Australian jurisdictions, Victoria does not have a spent convictions scheme, which means that convictions such as Casey’s can remain on a person’s record for their entire life and the disclosure of someone’s criminal history is not regulated in legislation.

Victoria Legal Aid’s submission to the Legal and Social Issues Committee supports the creation of a such a scheme, enabling past convictions to be removed from a person’s criminal history information. It also supports protection against discrimination on the basis of a person’s criminal history where that record isn’t relevant to the reasonable requirements of a job.

Executive Director of Criminal Law, Dan Nicholson, said the creation of a legislated spent convictions scheme will remove a major barrier for people who have been involved in the criminal justice system who hope to participate in their communities.

'Most people who commit a crime at some time in their lives stop offending and try to address the underlying causes of offending. They should be supported to rehabilitate and reintegrate into the community. Access to employment and participation in community life support social inclusion, and are protective factors against further offending.'

'A spent convictions scheme provides a proper framework to determine how criminal records are disclosed to employers, and to determine when less serious offending can be removed from your record. Other Australian jurisdictions have implemented such a scheme. It helps to ensure that a criminal history doesn’t cast an unreasonably long shadow on a person’s life.'

Our submission also highlights the need to ensure that the scheme creates a process that is accessible for all people.

Our submission also endorsed the work of Woor-Dungin over several years to document and advocate for change to address the particular impact of criminal history on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island background people.

More information

Read our submission to the Legal and Social Affairs Committee

Read Casey’s story

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