The Human Rights Commission is challenging the current law on the rehabilitation of offenders in Northern Ireland. The current law prevents any convictions of more than 30 months in prison from ever becoming spent. The case for leave will be heard in the High Court in Belfast today,

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby stated: “The Human Rights Commission is supporting the case of an applicant at Court today. We hope by taking this case it will bring about a wider change to the law on the rehabilitation of offenders in Northern Ireland.

“Currently, any conviction of over two and a half years in prison must always be disclosed, no matter what the circumstances and however long ago the offence was committed. As a result, it must be disclosed to employers, insurance companies and many others. In this case, the applicant has not committed any criminal offence for 40 years. People should be entitled to move on and the current blanket approach to the law does not assist rehabilitation.

“The Commission recognises that in certain cases the lifetime disclosure of an offence is completely necessary and lawful.

“However, we believe that the current approach that is in place for certain offences is disproportionate and is incompatible with Article 8 (Right to Private and Family Life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The need to reform the law was recognised several years ago in England and Wales.”

The Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) is supporting the Human Rights Commissions case.

NIACRO Chief Executive Olwen Lyner added: “NIACRO welcomes the case and the potential wider impact it could have. Everyday people come to us who are wanting to move on from their offence-they have completed their sentence as handed down by the court. However, the current law acts as a barrier and leaves many individuals feeling they can never be rehabilitated in the eyes of the law. This legislation was developed to provide for a second chance, but its limitations have been obvious for many years. It now needs to reflect current government policy as evidenced by the research”.

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