A staggering 84 per cent of local employers say they would not hire a person with a criminal record, according to Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo who quoted a survey.
While not revealing who conducted the survey or when it was done, Byer-Suckoo told the Senate today as she
led debate on the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Amendment Bill that 45 per cent of employers also said they would require prospective workers to
produce police certificates of character as a prerequisite for hiring.
It was in these circumstances that the Minister of Labour said Government was seeking to reduce the probationary period before ex-convicts can apply to have their criminal records expunged.
While admitting that some believed that expunging a person’s criminal record was equivalent to pretending the crime never took place, Byer-Suckoo said the amended legislation sought to create a balance between protecting the public from dangerous criminals and creating opportunities for those who had served their time to reintegrate into society and reduce their chances for further criminal involvement.
According to the minister, the administration was particularly concerned about youth unemployment. She explained that given the demands for police certificates of character by employers, persons who might have offended as teenagers or young adults faced the near impossible task of becoming employable for the rest of their lives because of the stigma associated with imprisonment.
She contended that many young people who want to turn their lives around were hamstrung by the mistakes they made as teenagers, which caused them to end up before the law courts.
Byer-Suckoo said the legislative amendments would shorten the waiting period before people can apply to have their criminal records erased.
For a prison sentence of one year but not more than three years, the rehabilitation period or waiting is five years, while for sentences between three and seven years, the rehabilitation period is ten years, according to the amendment.
In cases of non-custodial sentences convicted persons can apply to have their records removed after one year, down from five years under the old legislation.
Byer-Suckoo made it clear that expungement was not automatic as the request had to go before a board, which was required to seek a report from the commissioner of police before a decision was granted.
In this connection, the she said the amendment to the current legislation included a requirement for the board reviewing applications to state in writing why an expungement application was rejected.