Victorian Aboriginal Law Service (VALS) sets out a detailed submissions under numbered headings which correspond to each of the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry. Case studies are de-identified and are provided with the consent of our clients, who are eager to see reforms that could lead to significant positive outcomes for their wellbeing, livelihoods, families and communities.
- VALS believe that a legislated Spent Conviction Scheme in Victoria presents an opportunity to further the government’s commitment to rehabilitation and reducing recidivism rates for Aboriginal peoples. In that regard, we recommend that Victoria take a progressive approach whereby:
• Findings of guilt without recording a conviction are automatically spent;
• Convictions for which a sentence of less than four years imprisonment is imposed is capable of becoming spent after the relevant waiting period (with some exceptions);
• Convictions for which a prison sentence of more than four years is imposed, is capable of becoming spent in special circumstances.
- VALS is concerned that under both the Victorian Police Information Release Policy as well as the Draft Exposure Bill (‘the Draft Bill’),“non-convictions” are subject to the same rules as convictions, meaning that they will be released as part of an individual’s criminal record unless the relevant waiting period has expired.We believe that this approach substantially reduces the benefits of discharge provisions and undermines the ability of the courts to express leniency in appropriate circumstances.
- Many VALS clients report they do not apply for jobs due to the shame of disclosing their criminal record to prospective employers, therefore a cost-free method for convictions becoming spent will alleviate this concern.
- In relation to adults, VALS is of the view that both 5- and 10-year periods are arbitrary and are not supported by an evidence base linked to the likelihood of reoffending. Research suggests that after being “crime-free” for six to seven years, the risk of future offending is relatively equal to a person with no criminal history.