Vic poised for spent convictions scheme

State Attorney-General Jill Hennessy says people shouldn't have 'life sentences' for minor offences.
State Attorney-General Jill Hennessy says people shouldn't have 'life sentences' for minor offences.

Victoria is set to become the last Australian state to introduce a spent convictions scheme.

A bill was introduced in state parliament on Tuesday that will prevent the disclosure of eligible minor convictions after 10 years if a person has committed no other crime.

Convictions will also become 'spent' and no longer show on a police check after five years for a juvenile offence.

The scheme is designed to reduce the damaging effect old criminal records can have on people looking for employment, as well as when they try to secure housing or apply for volunteer work.

Victoria is the only state or territory in Australia that doesn't have a spent convictions scheme.

Victoria Police currently have discretion about whether to disclose convictions.

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said minor convictions particularly impact people who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, including Aboriginal Victorians and young people.

"A minor offence in the past should not be a life sentence - this scheme will break the cycle of disadvantage faced by too many Victorians as they seek to turn their lives around," Ms Hennessy said in a statement.

"People who have proven they are willing and able to change and make a positive contribution to society should be given every chance to do so."

Police and courts will continue to have full access to criminal history information and complete records will still be released when required for certain employers and third parties.

Ms Hennessy said the government moved on the reform following a parliamentary inquiry into spent convictions, headed by Reason MP Fiona Patten.

Ms Patten said the bill "meets the mark" and will benefit thousands of people.

"We heard from people who had an offence when they were 18 - like a burglary offence - and that was still weighing on them when they apply for a passport or apply for a job," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"It will affect thousands of people who've gone through our criminal court, who have turned a new leaf, and are still being discriminated against and judged for something they did in their youth."

Law Institute of Victoria President Sam Pandya welcomed the reform.

He said the current policy left young and Indigenous Victorians particularly subject to discrimination.

"These groups are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system," Mr Pandya said, noting they often faced court for minor offences such shoplifting or cannabis possession.

Australian Associated Press