The Ministry of Justice received has approved 1,200 of the 2,322 applications for the expungement of criminal records that were made last year.
Making his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 2), portfolio minister Delroy Chuck gave an update on the matter.
“When people apply, they expect that within days or weeks it will be expunged. That is not how it works. When persons apply, the first thing that is done is that a report has to be requested from the Criminal Records Office, and because of the burden on the Criminal Records Office, the likelihood of getting back the criminal records report within six months is really very unlikely,” he said.
He informed, however, that improvements have been realised from the Criminal Records Office over the last few months.
“Expungement is an area that the Ministry of Justice comes under a lot of complaints and [receives] a lot of applications,” he informed.
Meanwhile, he said a submission will be made to Cabinet to look at the widening of the expungement jurisdiction. He said following Cabinet’s deliberation, it is hoped that a bill will be brought to Parliament in this fiscal year to widen the categories or to ensure that persons who have been rehabilitated can get their matters expunged.
“We refuse a lot of applications. There are persons who have been found guilty for serious crimes but they, having served their sentence, have returned to the community. They have lived fairly upright lives, and because the Third Schedule is quite restrictive, they cannot get expungement and many of them, even though they appeal to the minister, the minister is reluctant to grant any appeal where the offence is of a serious nature, notwithstanding that they have been good upright citizens for 10 [or] 15 years,”
Expungement involves the formal removal of a conviction from an individual’s criminal/police record after a specific period of time has elapsed and after certain requirements have been met.
Persons who would like their records to be expunged may make an application through the Ministry of Justice, to be reviewed by the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Board.
To qualify for expungement, the offence in question must be one that attracts a non-custodial sentence or sentence of imprisonment not exceeding five years. The person in question must also not have had any other convictions during a specified period of time referred to as the ‘Rehabilitation Period’.
Offences such as the import and export of narcotics, e.g., cocaine and marijuana; murder, rape and some offences under the Malicious Destruction of Property Act, such as arson, cannot be expunged under the current law.
Meanwhile, Minister Chuck informed that there are a total of 104 Notaries Public serving across the island.
He said that eight Notaries Public were appointed last year and more will soon be appointed.