What the spent convictions scheme means for lawyers

What the spent convictions scheme means for lawyers

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Victoria’s spent convictions scheme will start on Wednesday, 1 December, bringing the state in line with all other Australian states and territories. 

‘We know criminal convictions can create barriers to fully participating in the community, making it difficult to get a job or to access housing,’ said Kate Bundrock, Program Manager, Summary Crime Program. 

‘As we told the Parliamentary inquiry, a legislated spent convictions scheme makes it easier for people to rehabilitate and reintegrate back into the community.’ 

‘Without it, convictions show up on every criminal record check no matter how minor or old.’ 

‘The introduction of a spent convictions scheme is one of the most significant positive developments in our criminal justice system in the past five years.’ 

From 1 December 2021, convictions that are spent will no longer show up on a police record check. 

There are some exemptions for checks conducted for particular types of employment, such as working with children. 

Full criminal histories will still be disclosed in some instances, like when applying for a firearms licence, or when criminal charges are laid by police. 

Convictions can be spent in one of three ways: immediately, after a conviction-free period or on application to the court. 

Convictions will be spent on the day of conviction if: 

  • the offender was under 15 at the time 

  • if the finding of guilt was recorded ‘without conviction’ 

  • the offender was found not guilty by reason of mental impairment or they were found to be unfit for trial 

  • if the conviction was for an infringement

The majority of other convictions will become spent after either five years for children or ten years for an adult and as long as all conditions attached to the conviction have been completed and no further offending has occurred. 

Serious convictions, including those that result in a sentence of more than 30 months of imprisonment, sexual offences or serious violence offences, may be spent on application to the court. 

While court applications to spend convictions won’t commence until next July, we anticipate that lawyers will soon start to receive queries from clients about how the scheme works and how to determine whether a conviction is eligible to be spent. 

Further resources

We held a highly attended PLE session earlier this month to provide an overview of the scheme, the background to its introduction and how it will run. 

This 1.5 hour session heard from Stan Winford, Associate Director, Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT University, who has been involved in advocacy for a spent convictions scheme over an extended period of time. 

Other presenters included Jacob Torney, Deputy Managing Lawyer, Summary Crime Program, Suzanne Bettink, Youth Law, Professional Support Lawyer, and Jay Chandramohan, Deputy Managing Lawyer, Equality Law Program. 

It is available for viewing now. 

Guidelines are currently being developed by the state government to help employers understand their rights and responsibilities under the new scheme. 

More information 

Read Casey’s story about how her old conviction kept her out of a job.

 

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