By Taylah Eastwell
Victoria has become the final Australian state to introduce a spent conviction scheme, allowing those with criminal records the chance to wipe the slate clean.
The Spent Convictions Bill 2020 passed through Victorian Parliament without amendment on Thursday 18 March, receiving 25 votes to 14.
The new laws allow eligible individuals the chance to have their conviction wiped from their record after a period of 10 years, provided no further offences have been committed during that time.
For more serious offences, including sexual offences that did not result in a period of imprisonment, rehabilitated offenders now have the option to make an application to the Magistrates Court to have their conviction spent.
Serious convictions will only be eligible to become spent by application to the Magistrates’ Court and only after a magistrate has carefully considered a range of factors, including rehabilitation and any risk to public safety.
For youth offenders, under 21 years of age at the time of sentencing for an offence, convictions will only remain on their record for a period of five years.
The legislation aims to reduce stigmas and barriers faced by those with a record when it comes to securing employment, finding housing and the ability to participate in volunteer work – however, records aren’t wiped clean entirely.
Police and courts will continue to have full access to complete criminal history and full records will still be released when required by certain employers, government departments and third parties in order to make necessary risk assessments, such as when applying for a Working with Children’s Check or a Bus Driver Accreditation.
Eastern Community Legal Centre welcomed the reforms.
“This change will mean that old, irrelevant criminal records will no longer impact the ability for our community members to enjoy the freedoms many take for granted, such as a choice of job prospects and even volunteering,” an Eastern Community Legal Centre spokesperson said.
“We recognise the disproportionate and stigmatising impact that this has had to date on our Aboriginal Community and the hard work of community leaders such as Woor-Dungin in partnership with local service Oonah Health & Community Services Aboriginal Corporation to lobby for this change,” the spokesperson said.
Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said “the days of past minor offences dictating the course of someone’s entire life are over”.
“For too long, offences like theft or minor property damage have cast a dark shadow over people who never offended again – these new reforms will give these Victorians a greater chance to succeed,” she said.