Once a person with a criminal conviction has paid their debt to society, it is very much in society’s interest and that of the offender that they be reintegrated into society as quickly as possible. However, disclosure of a criminal conviction is likely to have a negative effect on the person’s employment prospects and can also affect a person’s life in numerous other ways:
- Entry to certain professions such as law or medicine is denied
- A licence such as PSV (public service vehicle) driver’s licence or a firearms licence is refused
- Insurance cover may be declined
The consequences may be even more serious where the person fails to disclose the conviction but its existence emerges at a later date.
Under Section 258 of the Children Act 2001 an offence committed by a child can be automatically removed from the record as if never committed, once certain conditions are met. You can find more information in our document on children and the criminal justice system.
Under the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, which came into effect on 29 April 2016, a range of minor offences will become spent after 7 years. This means that an adult convicted of an offence covered by the Act does not have to disclose the conviction after 7 years, except in certain circumstances.
The convictions which may be regarded as spent after 7 years are set out in Section 5 of the Act. They are:
- All convictions in the District Court for motoring offences except for convictions for dangerous driving which are limited to a single conviction
- All convictions in the District Court for minor public order offences
- A single conviction (other than a motoring or public order offence) in the District or Circuit Court which resulted in a term of imprisonment of 12 months or less (or a fine)
The Act does not apply to any conviction for a sexual offence or an offence which was tried in the Central Criminal Court.
The 7 years is from the date the custodial or non-custodial sentence became operative and you must have complied with the sentence or order imposed.
In general, you are not required to disclose a spent conviction when supplying information on past convictions. However, you may be required to disclose a spent conviction in court proceedings and the circumstances are set out in Section 7 of the Act.
You must also disclose any spent convictions:
- In a Garda interview following your arrest in connection with the investigation of an offence
- When applying
- to enter, be or remain in the State
- for Irish citizenship,
- In an application or during an investigation under Part 3 of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010
If you have been convicted of fraud, deceit or dishonesty in respect of a claim under a policy of insurance or a policy of assurance, you have to disclose that conviction on any insurance or assurance proposal or form.
Disclosure is required if you are applying for certain types of licence. These licences include public service vehicle, private security, taxi and firearms licences.
In general, you are not required to disclose a spent conviction when looking for employment. However, you have to disclose any spent convictions if you are applying to work for certain bodies, such as, the Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and some government departments. The list of bodies is given in Schedule 2 of the Act.
The non-disclosure regime under the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 does not apply to employment relating to children or vulnerable adults. Such applicants must be Garda vetted and Garda vetting has its own non-disclosure regime.
Disclosure in other states
The Irish spent convictions legislation cannot be used to prevent disclosure when you are required to disclose information about your criminal convictions to another state, for example, the USA or Australia. You are subject to that country’s laws and may have to disclose such convictions.
Accessing criminal records held by the Gardaí
Under the Data Protection Act 1988 you have the right to access personal data about you that is held by the Garda Síochána. If you request a copy of your criminal record from the Garda Síochána, the record will be provided in 2 parts, with the spent convictions provided separately from the other convictions (if any). This means that you will be able to provide a clean record if your convictions are spent.