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Gov’t  moves to make it easier for minor convictions to be expunged

In moving the second and third reading of the Criminal Records Rehabilitation of Offenders Amendment Bill 2022 in Tuesday’s meeting of the Parliament, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, underscored the importance of the legislation which will right an injustice faced by many people in the country.

Under the proposed legislation, persons who have criminal convictions for minor offences which mar their record will be able to apply to have their records expunged.

According to the Attorney General, his chambers witnesses a steady influx of people who seek intervention to clear their records when they find themselves unable to access opportunities because minor convictions are reflected on their police record.

“Many persons have been writing to the ministry asking for certain offences to be expunged from their records. Persons commit little crimes like throwing missiles, insulting language, threatening language, and when they apply for a police record, that conviction remains on their records.

“So, when they go down to Barbados to get visas [they are denied], they can’t go to school because they’re on their records.

“Persons studying law, I had two young lawyers who want to study law, but because they had driving convictions – one of which was parking within 30 feet from the corner – no law school will take you except your record is completely and totally clean.

“Why should we therefore, debar people like those from entering on their study programme? I think it is wrong,” AG Benjamin insisted as he addressed the Lower House.

The Act provides for the establishment of a committee that will oversee applications from persons who wish to have their records expunged.

Originally, the legislation indicated that the committee was to be comprised of an attorney who has at least ten years’ experience practicing law, the Commissioner of Police, or an individual nominated by the person occupying that position, the Labour Commissioner or their nominee, the Chief Welfare officer or their nominee and the Chief Probation Officer. However, the offices of Chief Welfare Officer and Chief Probation Officer no longer exist.

The government is now seeking to update the legislation to replace those defunct positions with the Director or Social Services, or their nominee and the Probation Service Manager.

With these important changes effected to reflect the current structure of the government, it will allow the committee to be convened and to function effectively as a number of requirements must be satisfied for an individual to qualify to have their record expunged.

These will include reports on their rehabilitation since the time of their conviction in the case of those persons who were placed on probation and their conduct as members of the community since the offence.

AG Benjamin argues that it is a matter of priority that the law be updated so that, based on merit, deserving individuals can free themselves from the weight of onerous minor convictions that continue to haunt them and prevent them being able to lead full and productive lives.

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