Spent Convictions Bill could help ease stigma and poverty

October 27, 2020 |

A new Bill being introduced into Parliament this week could help end the cycle of poverty and disadvantage for thousands of Victorians and reduce the life-long stigma experienced by those convicted of minor offences.

Federation of Community Legal Centres Director of Policy and Engagement Shorna Moore welcomed the Spent Convictions Bill 2020, announced today by the State Government, and said it would bring relief to many Victorians who have been convicted of minor offences and who are forced to pay for those offences over and over again.

“This is great news for Victorians,” Ms Moore said.

“It means that those people who are now continually penalised for something that happened many years ago will have a greater chance of simply getting on with their lives, contribute to their families and communities and seek out employment, travel or study opportunities.   

“People who have not reoffended, who have managed to put their convictions behind them, who have already been held accountable through our state legal system should not have to pay for those offences forever. None of us wants to be judged for things we did 10 or 20 years ago.”

The Federation, alongside Victorian Community Legal Centres, has long campaigned for the State Government to introduce a spent convictions scheme, in line with other Australian states.

Under the Spent Convictions Bill 2020 offences will cease to be held on a person’s criminal history 10 years after conviction, if they have not reoffended during that time. For juvenile offences crimes would be “spent” and no longer show up on a police check after five years. 

Employers, rental agencies and others increasingly rely on criminal history checks, particularly through profit-driven third parties, as de-facto checks of someone’s character.

Ms Moore said the new Bill meant that once rehabilitated, people had a better chance of getting on with their lives.

“We know that criminal checks hinder people’s ability to get a job and to move out of the cycle of disadvantage and poverty,” she said.

“Even low-level convictions entrench people in a lifelong struggle of disadvantage.

“And, sadly, we know a stain on a criminal record most impacts young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – those already generally most affected by injustice.

 “If we want a fair Victoria, if we want a Victoria where all Victorians can thrive, we need a fair justice system and a spent conviction scheme helps us achieve that.”

The Federation of Community Legal Centres is the peak body for Victoria’s Community Legal Centres. Our members are at the forefront of helping those facing economic, cultural or social disadvantage and whose life circumstances are severely affected by their legal problem.

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