Spent Convictions Bill a welcome first step – Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the Spent Convictions Bill 2008 in the Dáil this afternoon as the first occasion on which the state has recognised that a minor conviction should not hang over an adult for the rest of their life. However Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Government needs to produce separate legislation or to incorporate new provisions into this Bill to deal with the distinct situation of political ex-prisoners.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "This Bill is welcome as the first occasion on which the state has recognised that a minor conviction should not hang over an adult for the rest of their life. It is a first step but it's very late and very small. Britain has had a spent conviction regime in place since the 1970s. We're still waiting for it decades later. Even this small step itself is being taken very slowly. Back in February the then Minister Brian Lenihan indicated that this could come into effect within weeks! It's December now and the Dáil legislative process is only just beginning. The step is also too small. The Bill, albeit an advance, is conservative and lazy.
"Rather, a more complex and proportionate regime could be introduced. A scheme could be introduced whereby the duration of the 'rehabilitation period' required varies depending on the length of sentence attached to the past conviction. This would allow the incentive of having a conviction spent to be extended to a greater number of prisoners.
"A range of issues are not addressed. We need the government to produce separate legislation or to incorporate new provisions into this Bill to deal with the distinct situation of political ex-prisoners.
"It is nearly 10 years on from the Good Friday Agreement but former political prisoners are still subject to grave discrimination in a wide range of areas from employment through to adoption. The government must tackle this head on and I am calling again for the records of all former political prisoners to be expunged. The political nature of the conflict in Ireland has now been recognised. This recognition must be extended to political ex-prisoners and discrimination against them needs to end.
"Both Sinn Féin and the Human Rights Commission have proposed that Equality Legislation be extended to include status as an ex-prisoner as one of the prohibited grounds." ENDS