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Government 'Clean Slate' Bill Will be Opposed

ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks says ACT will vigorously oppose Justice Minister Goff's Clean Slate Bill to wipe ten-year-old criminal convictions from people's records.

"Clean slate supporters mean well. They talk of `overcoming the past' and `forgetting the criminal stigma', but what it really means is suppression of the truth. It removes the right of everyone outside the justice establishment, to decide whether and when they should forgive and forget for past misdemeanours.

"The bill takes yet another freedom from ordinary people. The `authorities' have already shown that they cannot be trusted with power to suppress - see how they try to hide insane people and serious offenders among defenceless people in the community, without any warning.

"`Clean slate' is government ordered lying for the offender. The provision says the offender must lie, to achieve the objectives of the scheme.

"No wonder our young people are learning not to worry about bludging or ripping off their communities. 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 young people deciding between crime and respect for the law `don't worry about your reputation' we will doctor it for you'.

"ACT doesn't want people to carry a stigma forever. All of us will ignore an ancient conviction if the person has lived it down. That is our choice. But the bill will mean the past is secret. The state will deem the past lived down after 10 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 a cause of rocketing crime - the law doesn't mean what it says.

"We already pretend that youth crime doesn't happen, and hide young offenders in secret court sessions. Now the government wants to order the rest of us to pretend the past has not happened and tells the offender to lie.

"The right to forgive and forget is for individual New Zealanders not the state. ACT will vote for transparent justice, and against suppression of names after conviction whenever, and wherever they occur," Mr Franks said.

Ends


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