Saturday 15 June, 2019

'More than 1,000 Jamaicans had criminal records expunged last year'

Delroy Chuck

Delroy Chuck

More than 1,000 Jamaicans had their criminal records expunged over the past year, according to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck.

The Minister made the revelation Tuesday afternoon during his contribution to the 2019/2020 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives. He reported that the Justice Ministry received some 1,915 applications for expungement during the last fiscal year. Of that number, 1,046 criminal records were expunged.

“This is the opportunity for Jamaicans to be given a second chance to make a positive contribution to society,” Chuck noted.

He added that: “The Ministry of Justice continues to offer these expungement services to persons who have made a sincere and successful attempt at becoming law-abiding citizens so that they are given the opportunity to start afresh without being haunted by their past mistakes.”

Chuck told the House that he intends to propose to Cabinet that the Criminal Records Rehabilitation of Offenders Act be amended, "so that more deserving persons can benefit from the expungement of their criminal records." 

He argued that once it can be shown that those persons have, for an extended period of time, put crime behind them, then they should have their records expunged.

The Justice Minister told the stories of a pastor and a man from St Thomas who both ran afoul of the law in the past but who, in his view, should qualify to have their records expunged. However, he lamented that this is not presently possible because of the nature of the offences that they committed.

In the case of the pastor, Chuck said he had been charged with murder but was convicted for manslaughter. The clergy man has been preaching for 25 years but his criminal record remains because the current Act does not allow it to be wiped clean.

“That is the sort of person whose (record) we would want expunged,” Chuck said.

As it relates to the St Thomas man, Chuck said he was sentenced to three years probation for the carnal abuse of a 15-year-old girl.

“He went to court, admitted (his crime), got three year’s probation and, at the end of the probation period, he married the girl. They have two adult (children) now in their twenties (and) he would like his record expunged,” said Chuck.

The justice minister explained that because the offence is carnal abuse, it can’t be expunged.

“These are the kind of injustices that need to be removed and this (amended) legislation can remove these injustices,” he insisted.

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