Scheme to wipe record clean

SOME people with minor criminal convictions could have criminal history wiped under a plan lawyers say is needed to bring Victoria in line with other states.

YouthLaw lawyer Karen Chibert says young people with minor criminal convictions are being locked out of job opportunities despite being adequately qualified and offence free for years.

Ms Chibert and members of the Liberty Victoria's Rights Advocacy Project are urging the state government to consider changes proposed in a RAP report. 

Ms Chibert said one her clients, Vanessa, not her real name, believed she was unable to secure employment because she had pleaded guilty to a shopping lifting offence when she was 17. Despite being sentenced with no conviction, Vanessa believed Victoria Police was disclosing the offence to prospective employers.

Ms Chibert said a lack of clear legislation meant clients like Vanessa could never be sure if their offending would be disclosed.

“The broad policy is if she doesn’t re-offend after five years they won’t release the details, but there are a lot of exceptions to their policies,” Ms Chibert said. 

“Vanessa is a good example as she had on a number of occasions been not given a job that, arguably, she was very qualified for as she had priors haunting her.” 

RAP’s report says curren criminal record check policies impact can effect those who had committed minor offences. 

The report outlines options for change and states a recommended scheme. RAP’s Paige Darby said the recommendations are founded on the belief that offenders should be punished appropriately, but also given the opportunity to actively contribute to society once their punishment has been delivered.

“The idea behind a spent convictions scheme really is one of a ‘fair go’. If you have committed a minor offence, repaid your debt to society and stayed out of a trouble for a number of years you should be able to clear your slate and start anew,” Ms Darby said. 

Ballarat criminal lawyer Scott Belcher said the spent conviction scheme presented a interesting dilemma for law makers.

“On the one hand it’s operation promotes the principles of putting the past behind you and protects an individual’s right to privacy against the government and community’s right to know where risk or community protection is at stake,” Mr Belcher said.