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Criminal Record (Concealment) Bill Gets Worse

Criminal Record (Concealment) Bill Gets Worse

Friday 25 Jul 2003 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

The Bill to suppress criminal records has been reported back to Parliament, by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, with changes that make it worse than when it was first sent to the Committee, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The Bill lies in its title. It does not create a clean slate, and it instructs people to lie after seven years of not being caught," Mr Franks said.

"A priest may now face a $10,000 fine for telling parish members to obey the commandment to tell the truth. A would-be fiancée, asking her intended about his past, faces the same fine. So does someone looking for a flatmate, or a club considering a treasurer, and employers trying to get objective information about someone who will be in a position of trust.

"Labour has exempted the criminal justice and security systems, but not medical and educational services that most innocent New Zealanders rely on. Even the Law Society checking the honesty of young lawyers doesn't get an exemption.

"The Bill started as Justice Minister Phil Goff's attempt to outbid Green MP Nandor Tanczos for the unthinking `yoof' vote, after Nandor's clean slate bill won a members' ballot.

"This Bill isn't about giving second chances. The Committee's Labour/Green majority added a table showing that only five percent of offenders re-offend after going straight for seven years. This deceitful use of statistics doesn't show what happens for multiple offenders.

"Most New Zealanders with information about a previous offence would expect little risk, and give offenders a second chance. But this law applies no matter the number of previous offences, as long as they haven't been to prison. Our `play way' justice system means the average prisoner has had nine offences before going to prison.

"This Bill is about forcing us into ignorance, so we give seven, eight, even 20 chances. Labour and the Greens know that only idiots would multiple prior offences information was irrelevant, but patterns of offending are the best objective predictors of reoffending risk.

"The seven years deemed rehabilitation will still apply, no matter how seriously you have offended overseas during that time. This law will not work. It will hurt people who might expect help from it. The well connected will still be able to find out about previous offences.

"The next step will be even more bizarre. The Select Committee suggests making it illegal for New Zealanders to treat someone with a proven crime history less favourably than another who has never offended," Mr Franks said.

For background detail and further comment including the ACT Minority Commentary in the Select Committee Report see http://www.act.org.nz/action/documents/cleanslate.pdf

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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