Penal reform group welcomes recommendations on drug decriminalisation and spent convictions

Fíona Ní Chinnéide
Fíona Ní Chinnéide

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed the National Drugs Strategy’s recommendation that the Government consider decriminalisation of minor drug possession and review spent convictions legislation.

The Strategy, published yesterday, includes a number of recommendations relating to criminal justice and the penal system.

It proposes the establishment of a working group to examine drug decriminalisation, and recommends that existing spent convictions legislation should be reviewed in future.

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, the IPRT’s acting executive director, said: “Substance misuse causes great harm to families and communities, but punishing addictions has not worked.

“A significant majority of people in Ireland’s prisons have addictions, at great cost to the State. Investment in prevention, intervention and drug treatment services in the community will lead to better outcomes for society, less crime and fewer people in prison.

“The report recognises the negative impact that criminal convictions can have on rehabilitation. It is important that the working group on decriminalisation of minor drug possession reports within the timeline of 12 months. IPRT calls for the recommended review of spent convictions legislation to take place within that same timeline.

“Wider spent convictions legislation will support rehabilitation, and allow people who have worked hard to overcome addictions or offending behaviour move on with their lives.”

The IPRT has said it is “disappointed” by the narrow application of the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016.

If a person has two or more convictions for minor theft or drug offences, these remain on their criminal record permanently, which the IRPT has likened to “lifelong punishment for mistakes made during chaotic or difficult periods in a person’s life”.