Victoria passes spent convictions scheme

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Victoria has become the final Australian state to introduce a spent convictions scheme, giving some offenders a second chance to turn their life around.

The Spent Convictions Bill 2020 passed the Legislative Council 25 votes to 14 on Thursday evening without amendment.

It means eligible minor convictions will become "spent" from December 1 and no longer show on a police check after 10 years, or five years for a juvenile conviction, if the person does not re-offend during that time.

For more serious offences, rehabilitated offenders will have to make an application to the Magistrates Court for their conviction to be spent.

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.

Minor convictions particularly impact people who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, including Aboriginal Victorians and young people.

"The days of past minor offences dictating the course of someone's entire life are over," Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said in a statement.

"These laws will give hope to many Victorians doing it tough."

In parliament, Ms Symes said the new scheme doesn't "wipe clean" an offenders' conviction once it becomes spent.

But she confirmed a 14-year-old convicted of murder would be eligible to enter parliament after serving their sentence.

Victoria was the only state or territory in Australia that didn't have a spent convictions scheme, with Victoria Police able to use their own discretion regarding whether to disclose convictions.

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.

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

Although she wanted the scheme to go further, Ms Patten said it will change people's lives for the better.

"This bill is a missing part of our justice system," she said in parliament.

"This is the bill that tells people they can be rehabilitated, that a sentence is not a life sentence."

Shadow Attorney-General Edward O'Donohue backed a spent convictions regime but pushed for amendments, including the removal of measures allowing convictions for those under 15 to be automatically spent.

The opposition's amendments, along with another introduced by Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam, were voted down.