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Smith: Clean Slate Bill well-intended but flawed

Media Statement
For immediate release
Wednesday, 30 July, 2003

Smith: Clean Slate Bill well-intended but flawed

United Future is opposing the Government's Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Bill because it doesn't do what it set out to do, would be significantly misunderstood as a result and would be open to considerable abuse without criminal sanction, MP Murray Smith said today.

"The aims of the bill and the compassion for people who have made mistakes early in life are laudable, but in the end the test of legislation is will it do what it intends to do. This bill won't," Mr Smith, United Future's justice spokesman, said.

"There is considerable misinformation surrounding it. It doesn't wipe people's convictions, it simply hides them, so the very name of the bill is a misnomer," he said.

"And because the convictions still exist, people will then be lying when they tell a prospective employer that they have no convictions.

"The bill also has a number of criteria to meet before someone can take advantage of its provisions and this will cause considerable confusion about who can benefit from it and who can't - so much so that the Law Society submission to the Select Committee basically said that people would be well advised see a lawyer to find out if they were covered by it or not."

The society's submission predicted that people would not do that and consider they were covered when they weren't, leading to significant abuse. Mr Smith agrees.

"This is hardly clear and forthright legislation. Again, I say the intention is good, but the bill is badly constructed," he said.

United Future filed a minority report to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee's report, opposing the Bill in its current form and suggesting an entirely different approach including:

* Removal of automatic eligibility criteria, and requiring an individual to apply for a 'clean slate'
* The police having an opportunity to respond to any application for a 'clean slate'
* A true clean slate where convictions are expunged rather than concealed in appropriate cases.


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