Home Affairs Minister, Edmund Hinkson, is encouraging Barbadians against whom the courts handed down light prison or non-custodial sentences to come forward and have their records erased to give themselves better employment chances.
Among the provisions of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act are erasure of the criminal records of certain sufficiently rehabilitated persons.
The Act allows for persons sentenced to one year or less in prison to be considered rehabilitated in three years; and those sentenced for over one year but less than three can be rehabilitated in five. Individuals sentenced to more than three years imprisonment but fewer than seven years can be considered rehabilitated in ten years.
The rehabilitation period for a non-custodial sentence is one year.
“This is absolutely vital where we know that about 87 per cent of the jobs available in Barbados the employer requires a police certificate of character,” Hinkson said, adding, “It makes sense that if you do have a criminal record that you seek to get it expunged … if you’re eligible.
“You’ll be eligible of course if you have not had a subsequent conviction for a criminal offence,” he clarified.
Hinkson said that applicants for expungement of criminal records should not be discouraged by the time it takes.
“I know that it takes a little while after the application is made, through the Office of the Attorney General, to the Rehabilitation Board for your record to be expunged,” Hinkson conceded.
“It could take two years for it to happen, maybe sometimes more. We have to look at speeding up that process but one of the reasons would be that the board also has the statutory duty to look to see about your behaviour since you served the sentence.”
He said that nonetheless affected Barbadians and their family members should see this as an opportunity to re-start life with a clean slate.
“It is something that we need more of our citizens who have at some time in the past found themselves in conflict with the criminal justice system to take advantage of.
“In other words, a lot of fellows who might have been in possession of illegal substances and who might have received a six months sentence to prison because of it, or even a non-custodial sentence, a fine – can have their records expunged and cleared.”
He added “This negative record on their police certificate of character will affect, and is affecting, their future in terms of employment and moving ahead and starting over again, which they are entitled to do after they’ve paid their dues to society.”