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Clean Slate laws come into force today

Clean Slate laws come into force today

The Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act comes in to force Monday, allowing hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders with minor convictions to finally put past mistakes behind them, Justice Minister Phil Goff said today.

"The new law allows people who have never been sentenced to imprisonment, and who meet the criteria, including having had no convictions in the last seven years, to have their convictions concealed," Mr Goff said.

"The Ministry of Justice estimates that as many as 500,000 New Zealanders will gain relief from this Act. The majority of those people committed some relatively minor offence in their youth and are now totally law-abiding.

"There are few people who can claim to have led totally blameless lives. Those who were convicted many years ago for offences such as shoplifting have, however, often continued to be disadvantaged by those convictions.

"Critics of the Act say it requires individuals to lie. It does not. It simply allows a great many ordinary, and now law-abiding, New Zealanders who have long suffered unnecessary anxiety about past mistakes to finally bury their past. Convictions for minor offending should not be a life sentence.

"The Act only rewards those who have permanently changed their behaviour. Any further conviction, regardless of the sentence, ends a person's entitlement to clean-slate their convictions until they meet all the criteria again."

Mr Goff said that because the Act only concealed convictions, and did not wipe them, full criminal records would still be made available during police investigations or court proceedings; when applying for a firearms licence, or for sensitive types of employment, such as the care of children or national security.

"While the legislation will automatically apply, individuals will still need to check if they meet the eligibility requirements before they claim the benefits of the regime. From tomorrow onwards, people can request a copy of their criminal record from the Privacy Unit at the Ministry of Justice.

Information about how this can be done, and about Clean Slate, is available from the Ministry of Justice’s website www.justice.govt.nz under the 'Information for the Public' section.

"It will still be lawful to ask someone to consent to the disclosure of their criminal record by the Ministry of Justice or the Police. However from tomorrow, if the person has a clean slate, no convictions will be revealed.

"Travellers need to be aware that, because New Zealand legislation is not binding in another country, the Act does not legally excuse them from disclosing all convictions to overseas authorities," Mr Goff said.
The Ministry of Justice has produced a pamphlet about the legislation, which will be available on the Ministry's website. It will also be distributed to police stations, courthouses, Citizens Advice Bureaux and community law centres.

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