5 December 2019
On 19 November 2019 Executive Council approved two pieces of legislation aimed at modernising the Criminal Justice System on St Helena. These will be presented as Government Business at the formal Legislative Council meeting tomorrow, Friday 6 December 2019.
Rehabilitation of Offenders
One of the pieces of legislation due to be presented amends the way in which the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 applies to St Helena.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 applies to St Helena by virtue of the English Law (Application) Ordinance 2005. If the legislation to amend the way in which the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 applies to St Helena is passed, the timeframes in which convictions become spent will be significantly shortened on St Helena and brought in line with the timeframes in which convictions become spent in England and Wales.
After a specific period of time has passed (the time varies depending on the sentence or disposal received) convictions are deemed to be spent. This means that the individual convicted, is treated as having been rehabilitated with regard to the specific offence. With some exceptions, the conviction for the offence is then generally not required to be declared, often including when an individual is applying for a job.
The second piece of legislation due to be presented, proposes to amend existing legislation, the Police and Criminal Evidence Ordinance 2003, to establish a criminal records database on St Helena which will generally distinguish between recordable and non–recordable offences.
If passed, the proposed legislation, which makes provision for the establishment and maintenance of a criminal records database on a statutory basis, will formalise and modernise the way in which criminal records are kept and disclosed on St Helena and the way in which vetting is carried out on St Helena. The proposal distinguishes recordable from non-recordable offences and if passed, it will prevent residents of St Helena potentially being disproportionately penalised for minor offences.
Generally, a recordable offence is any offence which could result in imprisonment. The appropriate test as to whether an offence is recordable or not, is whether the offence could result in imprisonment and not whether the convicted person was actually imprisoned.
A non-recordable offence is any offence which is not punishable by imprisonment. Based on the approach in England and Wales there are some exemptions to this rule, i.e. there are a number of offences which are not punishable by imprisonment but which are recordable due to the nature of the offence.
A recordable offence is recorded on the criminal records database and disclosed during vetting whereas a non-recordable offence may be documented but is generally not recorded on the criminal records database and therefore is not disclosed during vetting.
If this proposal is passed, the Governor in Council will be able to make regulations addressing the exemptions which will apply on St Helena, the details of how the criminal database will be implemented and maintained and the way in which information will be requested and disclosed. The approach will be based on the approach in England and Wales, including the exemptions which apply in England and Wales, with differences where appropriate to take account of local circumstances.
The aim of both proposals is to standardiseand modernise the criminal records database and to remove some of the obstacles faced by persons with convictions in order to enable such persons to be fully rehabilitated so that the opportunity for them to move on with their lives and reintegrate into society is enhanced. This is part of a broader Government objective to modernise the Criminal Justice System.
Both pieces of legislation can be viewed on the SHG website here: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government/legislative-council/bills-for-an-ordinance/
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5 December 2019