Spent convictions scheme will transform the lives of many Victorians

The proposed spent convictions bill introduced by Reason Party leader Fiona Patten MP would transform the lives of many Victorians. If passed, the proposed scheme would bring Victoria in line with every other Australian state and territory, including Queensland, which has had a legislated scheme since 1986.

Ms Patten today introduced a bill into the Legislative Council that would automatically remove the convictions for minor offences if people have not reoffended for a period of time.

The proposed scheme will introduce the following changes:

  • For adults found guilty of offences where their punishment was imprisonment of 6 months or less, the finding of guilt won’t appear on their criminal record after 5 years for summary offences and 10 years for indictable offences if they have not reoffended in that time.
  • For those who were children when they received a finding of guilt, the expiry period is 3 years, if they have not reoffended in that time.
  • Anyone with a finding of guilt for a minor offence where the court ordered a dismissal of the charge and no other penalty will have their finding of guilt expire the same day.

Currently Victoria Police has complete discretion over which past convictions are disclosed when a person applies for a criminal record check. A legislated spent convictions scheme would make this process clear and transparent.

Many Victorians with minor, one-off offending are too afraid to apply for jobs which require a police check, worried that their past mistakes will continue to hamper their rehabilitation.

Liberty Victoria welcomes the bill and urges the Andrews Government, Opposition and other minor parties to pass it as soon as possible.

In 2017, Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project released a report outlining the case for reform and made eight recommendations. Many of RAP’s recommendations were adopted by the Reason Party in their draft legislation.

Liberty Victoria Vice President Julia Kretzenbacher, one of the report’s authors, says spent convictions schemes limit the ongoing stigma of a conviction after punishment has been delivered.

“They enable the rehabilitative and deterrent purposes of punishment to have a real and practical outcome,” Ms Kretzenbacher said.

“The content of criminal history checks affects a vast number of Victorians. The use of criminal history checks has grown significantly, particularly in pre-employment screening. In 2015–16, Victoria Police conducted 691,029 criminal history checks, compared to 3,459 checks in 1992– 93.”

The report follows on from the efforts of the Law Institute of Victoria and the achievements of the Woor-Dungin Criminal Record Discrimination Project in lobbying and effecting change for a Victorian spent convictions scheme.

The Greens supported a spent convictions scheme in 2017, when then MLC Susan Pennicuik introduced a bill to set up such a scheme.

The current bill would further guarantee Victorians’ right to privacy and non-discrimination, rights that are protected under Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights.

“Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General Jill Hennessy should take this opportunity to build on Labor’s 2014 election promise to consider a spent convictions scheme, and commit to building a fairer Victoria”, Ms Kretzenbacher said.

For comment please contact Liberty Victoria on 03 9670 6422 or info@libertyvictoria.org.au.