Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

Experts want more Clean Slate concealment

Experts say many offenders were young when they committed crimes and should not be prevented from employment. Photo / File
Experts say many offenders were young when they committed crimes and should not be prevented from employment. Photo / File

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have had convictions concealed under the Clean Slate Act and experts want the legislation extended to more offenders.

Ministry of Justice data showed 220,598 people had been eligible to have convictions concealed since the act was introduced in 2004.

The Clean Slate Act was designed to allow people with less serious convictions to put their pasts behind them if they had been conviction-free for at least seven years, had not been sentenced to imprisonment and met other criteria.

The Clean Slate Act applies to employment and any other situations where an individual is asked about their criminal record.

Steve Treloar, manager of the Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society in Whanganui, said the Clean Slate legislation had worked extremely well.

He said he would like the initiative extended to people with more serious convictions. He suggested those sentenced to less than two years in prison have convictions concealed after 10 years.

He said a lot had offended when they were young.

"People mature and people change and it is really difficult for some of those people then to get employment," he said. "They've paid their debt back to society, and so why should a conviction or convictions like that go and haunt them for the rest of their life?"

The Clean Slate Act meant people with convictions could participate in and contribute to society, he said.

Rotorua lawyer Tim Barclay said he supported the Clean Slate Act but agreed it was a little bit too restrictive. Convictions received at young ages could blight futures, he said.

"There are people who haven't offended for many years, who are still having to carry the burden of youthful convictions."

Mr Barclay thought the rules could be loosened also for some who had served a prison sentence.

Mr Barclay said convictions harmed reformed people's employment prospects. The alternative for them was welfare.

However, he thought serious dishonesty convictions should be disclosed, as this could be a permanent problem.

Talent ID Recruitment director Kellie Hamlett said the Bay of Plenty agency would prefer its candidates were honest in disclosing all prior criminal convictions.

The agency assessed the suitability of candidates on behalf of clients, so it was important to pass on all information to the client.

She said all information was considered fairly and justifiably.

Talent ID Recruitment checked the criminal records of its workers. Whether it would take on someone with a record depended entirely on the role applied for and the nature of the conviction, said Ms Hamlett.

"Many of our candidates do have what we could class as minor convictions and they are fully disclosed at the time of interview. Often these candidates are successfully placed."

The agency passed on all information to its client who then made the decision, taking into account any potential risk.

Between January and November last year, 29,973 people were eligible to have 76,775 convictions concealed under the Clean Slate Act.

The most concealed convictions were dangerous and negligent acts, public order offences and traffic offences.

Under the Clean Slate Act, it is an offence to require or request that somebody discloses concealed convictions.

Ministry of Justice general manager, district courts Tony Fisher said a person meeting the criteria to have their convictions concealed did not have to apply for a clean slate. The scheme was applied by the ministry when an application was made for a copy of their criminal record.

The Ministry's Criminal Records Unit processed about 450,000 requests every year.

There was no central register of the people meeting the criteria at any one time.

A person would lose eligibility to have their convictions concealed if convicted of a further offence, and their record would show previously concealed convictions as well as their most recent convictions.

- NZ Herald

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