August 01, 2019 |
We have an excellent opportunity to develop a uniquely Victorian spent convictions scheme.
We have an opportunity to craft a graduated scheme that imposes varied waiting periods that are commensurate with a person’s level of offending.
A graduated scheme would ensure people convicted of a low-level offence are not continuously punished when seeking employment, study or travel, for something they have already been held accountable for through our criminal legal system.
A Victorian scheme would clearly define a conviction to support operation of varied waiting periods. If a court finds someone guilty, but has chosen not to impose a conviction, those convictions must become immediately spent.
Our scheme should outline what convictions are excluded, in line with community expectations. However, a Victorian scheme must be flexible and fair by allowing people to apply to a court or tribunal to have an excluded conviction spent by demonstrating proper rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities.
To ensure our scheme is not burdensome, all convictions must be spent automatically when the required waiting period applies.
As criminal record checks are increasingly used as de-facto tests of someone’s character, it is necessary to protect people from discrimination based on their spent convictions, as well as to make it an offence to make people disclose any spent convictions they may have.
To ensure the scheme is not undermined, there should be penalties for the unlawful disclosure of spent convictions or for threatening to disclose someone’s spent convictions without authority.