The Keith Mitchell-led government has introduced legislation in Parliament to do away with the criminal record of persons who committed minor offences years ago and still have the charges hanging over their heads.
Government member, Senator Peter David piloted the Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill to address the convictions of persons found guilty of committing petty crimes in order to give them another chance of a good life in society.
Crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery with violence, arson and any sentence carrying a penalty of more than 15 years will not be considered for a spent conviction.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill 2017 was debated at a sitting of the Upper House held at the Trade Centre in Morne Rouge, Grand Anse last Friday.
The bill primarily seeks to redress certain impediments which are experienced by many offenders, especially those who committed criminal offences as juveniles.
It is said that many of these offenders later discover that their criminal records significantly impede their abilities to secure certain employment opportunities, as well as obtain visas to travel abroad.
According to Sen. David, the bill is long overdue as there are many young persons who are feeling the effects of offences they would have committed in their younger years.
“I remember when the Sandals project was underway, many young persons who wanted to get employment on that project, found themselves being asked to bring criminal records…”, he said.
He said that in some instances it was a conviction for obscene language 15 years ago, assault 25 years ago, and for insulting language five years ago.
“…There are young people who while they are young they get on the wrong side of the law and they proceed to live a crime free life – they proceed to become model citizens, get degrees and then one day out of nowhere they get the question, do you have a criminal record.
Some of them even forgot about the problem and then they go to the Criminal Records Office and up comes a conviction and there goes a job”, he remarked.
Sen. David stated that the bill will provide the avenue that is needed to give offenders the life that they are now fighting to lead.
“We need to provide an incentive to those who want to rehabilitate”, he said.
“The fact is we have to give people second chances; in fact, in some cases, you have to give them third chances because we all make mistakes,” he added.
The government senator who is an attorney-at-law by profession took issue with the law for deeming someone who became a model citizen and had a criminal record for a petty crime dating back to 5 and 20 years.
Sen. David pointed out that the core of the legislation is this that after a certain period of rehabilitation, certain offences would come off the record of a convicted person.
However, he said that if after a record has been expunged, the offender goes and commit another crime then that offence will stand.
“After four years if I was charged for example with obscene language, simple assault… after a period of four years if I was not sent to prison, the record is clean – meaning that no one can take it into consideration.
“Now if in the four-year period you commit another offence, then the period starts from the commission of that other offence. So, it is not as if you get your record clean after four years. If you have continued to offend…somebody who has a propensity to offend and is repeatedly offending will not have a clean record.
He said this is needed so that a second chance can be given for persons who have made mistakes in their youth to have a chance of a good life.