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Nandor’s ‘Clean Slate’ Bill Will Be Opposed

Thursday 22nd Feb 2001

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks says the Greens are sadly mistaken in assuming that all parties will support Nandor Tanczos’ Clean Slate Bill which will wipe many criminal convictions over seven years old from people’s records.

“I will vigorously oppose this bill.

“Clean slate supporters are full of well-meant feel-good words such as ‘overcoming the past’ and ‘forgetting the criminal stigma’, but what it really means is suppression of the truth. It removes the right of individuals to use their own judgement on whether they should forgive and forget for past misdemeanours.

“The bill takes yet another freedom from ordinary people and puts power in the hands of the ‘authorities’. The ‘authorities’ have already shown that they cannot be trusted with such power – they ignore what ordinary people think – see what has happened to so-called ‘life imprisonment’.

“No, what ‘clean slate’ will become is compulsory secrecy. It will not be about allowing people who have transgressed to live that down – it will be about the state dictating what kind of reputation an individual has.

“We wonder why our young people are learning not to worry about bludging or ripping off their communities. Clearly in most civilised societies the concept of shame, or concern for reputation is one of the first lessons that good families teach.

“The Clean Slate Bill tells people ‘don’t worry about your reputation, we will doctor it for you’.

“People don’t carry a stigma forever. Nearly all of us will ignore an ancient conviction if the person has lived it down. That is our choice. But the Green bill will mean the past is secret. The state will deem the past lived down after seven years – whatever the truth.

“When we suppress normal sanctions as a community – such as shame and a poor reputation – we are forced to rely on stronger formal institutional punishment. This bill underlines the cause – the law doesn’t mean what it says. We will be ordered to pretend the past hasn’t happened.

“I believe that the right to forgive and forget is for individual New Zealanders. It is not for the state to take and exercise on their behalf,” Stephen Franks said.


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