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Petty offenders’ records to be wiped clean

Petty offenders’ records to be wiped clean

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Young Vincentians who committed petty offences in the past are being given a chance to wipe their slates clean.{{more}}

A bill for an act to make provision for the rehabilitation of offenders who have not been reconvicted of any serious offence for periods of years had its second reading in the House of Assembly on Friday, October 23, 2009.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, moving the bill, said it will go a long way towards solving problems for young persons and giving them a good second chance.

During the debate, Gonsalves explained that it treats the rehabilitated as if that individual had never committed an offence.

It will cover custodial sentences of up to two and a half years.

The tenets of the rehabilitation bill seek to make evidence of a conviction or sentence inadmissible to proceedings before a judicial authority. This means that outside of the court it cannot be raised again.

Also, rehabilitated persons are not required to disclose whether he or she was ever convicted.

A person who has had a sentence for a term not exceeding six months after seven years will have his or her conviction wiped off.

A sentence of imprisonment for six months or more but not exceeding 30 months will be erased after 10 years.

Gonsalves stated that an individual who has been fined or who has received a non-custodial sentence is considered rehabilitated after five years, once they had not committed another offence during that time.

For children or young people under the age of 16 years, the rehabilitation period will be half that of an adult.

Persons who will be excluded from such privilege include those who had received a sentence of imprisonment for life; a sentence for a term exceeding 30 months; a sentence for an offence against the administration of lawful authority, whether it is under 30 months or not; and a sentence for an offence relating to the administration of justice.

“We need to treat our young people not forever as criminals,” said Gonsalves, adding, “people must get a second chance.”

The prime minister outlined that there are persons who are unable to get their visas, join the ranks of the Police Force or go sailing because of a simple offence they committed in the past.

When offered the opportunity to make his contribution to the bill, Dr. Lorraine Friday of the New Democratic Party (NDP), expressed two problems he had with it.

Friday said he wanted to know what happens administratively after the rehabilitation takes place, such as what happens to the records, the storage of the files, and the persons who will have access to them.

The Area Representative of the Northern Grenadines said he was concerned about these situations because sometimes even though the law has changed … people still continue doing same things as if there has been no change.

He was also concerned about applications made abroad by people considered rehabilitated.

Friday stated one may have no legal requirement under Vincentian law to declare information pertaining to a criminal offence, but if one states that he was never convicted on an application for a visa and it is subsequently determined the individual had a conviction, the jurisdiction to which one applies can renounce the visa.

Gonsalves insisted that once a person has been declared rehabilitated there is no obligation on that individual to declare his or her conviction that was erased.(HN)

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