Spent Convictions Legislation is currently under review, and it is essential that a major rethink on this flawed legislation occurs. In its current format, it facilitates or supports the perpetrator’s lying.
The CAA has no issue with people who have committed minor offences having the albatross of a prior conviction lightened; however, not to the degree this Act achieves where expunging a conviction by secrecy is repugnant, exasperated by no mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of the legislation.
If asked by a potential employer if they have ever been convicted of an offence they can either refrain from answering or lie. And that includes joining the Police Force.
Spent convictions can either be Minor or Historical; the latter raises very real concern as there is no definition of Historical. A magistrate or administrator may have a subjective view of ‘Historical,’ and that is not satisfactory.
Moreover, innocent victims and others can be caught up in committing offences created by this legislation to protect the criminal. Breaching this legalisation, whether or not it was intentional, is a crime.
Amongst the major flaws in this Act include the secrecy in the administration and legal processes, undermining our legal system, and fundamentally, the legislation is structured to legalise a lie by the very people that the system is supposed to help live a crime-free life. One would think free from lies and deceit.
This is seriously flawed legislation that slipped through without very much public discourse as Victorians laboured through the last three months of the COVID pandemic, with the Act taking effect on the 1st of July 2022.
A cynic would suggest this was deliberate, as now the matter has been raised by the Government again in the form of a review. Hopefully, this indicates the architects now doubt the folly of this legislation.
This legislation is egregious, particularly given the secrecy that surrounds this process.
We have no hope of ever knowing if this program is successful as we watch our crime rate grow. The secrecy prohibits the collection of empirical data to measure the effect.
If a conviction is spent and the perpetrator reoffends, neither we nor the courts or the bureaucracy will know. They will be processed as a first offender. That removes any deterrent effect.
Secrecy is the building block of corruption, and this proposal is one of the most high-risk devised; the anomalies must be rectified.
Review of the Spent Convictions Act 2021 | Engage Victoria (CTRL + click)
We are very uncomfortable with aspects of the legislation, and we suspect many Victorians would share our concerns when they become aware of it.
Secrecy: The secrecy around this process is an anathema to us and everybody else who has any respect for our legal system. The openness of our legal system is a defence against corruption and totalitarianism and provides accountability for the Courts. Not undermining a basic tenet of our judicial system.
Corruption: The system is not transparent, so the potential for the scheme to be corrupted is extremely high. Not only aggravated by dealing with people who in the past have been prepared to break the law, but convictions can be spent by an administrative process, which, in effect, is totalitarianism by the second estate.
Administrative abuse risks.
As we understand it, most of the decisions will be administrative (referred to as automated). The automated system will be managed by Public Servants or perhaps contractors, faceless and unaccountable staff; this is a recipe for corruption—convictions spent for a price.
Anti-Victim: However, a victim must have a right to be heard before a person convicted for committing a crime against them is spent. They could cross paths with the perpetrator in all sorts of circumstances. As a neighbour, in a local town, or a housing complex, in social circumstances or employment, the list is extensive. The onus must be placed on the Perpetrator to avoid these situations and not the Victim. Victim harassment must be avoided and be an offence under this legislation. They have suffered as a victim once; why is the onus placed on them and not the perpetrator? This is a moral anomaly.
No Victim Representation:
It is bad enough having secret Courts with only the Attorney General, and the Chief Commissioner permitted to be represented; it is an indictment on our legal system that the same right is not extended to the victims.
Spent Conviction Time frames:
The Act species time frames for the period before a Spent Conviction can be granted. That part of the legislation is flawed, particularly for juvenile offenders.
Perpetrators may not have finished a court sanction (their debt to society) before the conviction is spent. Alternatively, for a large part of the stipulated period, they were either in jail or subject to some other court-imposed sanction. Spent Convictions must be measured from when the Court sanctions expire, not the conviction date.
Restitution: It seems utterly incongruous that a criminal can have their conviction spent without making any reparation to the Victim. This means that the gains accrued by the criminal and the benefit derived from the crime ensures that crime does pay, and any deterrent effect is lost.
The definition of our legal system is best illustrated by ‘Lady Justice’, our logo; the scales she holds demonstrate the Law must be balanced; however, for too long, the scales continue to be tipped to favour the criminal to the point where the criminals derive more benefit from the ‘legal system’ than the victim. There is something abhorrent about that.
Unfortunately, many see criminals through ‘rose-coloured’ glasses when, in reality, many criminals are not charged with offences, not because they have reformed, but rather because they have not been caught. That is very true with opportunistic criminals.
It is time this was rectified and a more equitable system developed to ensure that victims are compensated for their loss (that Victim could be the Crown), and the benefit of ill-gotten gains enjoyed by Criminals must never be expunged as a liability until settled.
Crime is not supposed to pay.