Justice Minister, Naomi Long today announced her intention to bring forward legislative provisions to reform rehabilitation periods in Northern Ireland.
The announcement follows the conclusion of a public consultation on proposals to reform rehabilitation periods in Northern Ireland to reflect changes in sentencing practices and developments in other jurisdictions.
Naomi Long said: "The vast majority of respondents to the consultation - 97% - were in favour of a review of rehabilitation periods for convictions in Northern Ireland.
By reducing the length of time that it will take for some convictions to become spent, and allowing more sentences to be capable of becoming spent; more people who want to contribute to society, having turned their backs on crime, will be able to do so.
Evidence shows that former offenders who are able to get back into the world of work are less likely to reoffend, thereby ensuring there are fewer victims of crime, making our communities safer and reducing the number of repeat offenders within the justice system."
"It is essential that we have a criminal justice system which punishes offenders appropriately and fairly, protects the public and supports victims. But we also need a system that can reform offenders effectively so that they do not go on to commit further crimes."
Rehabilitation periods in Northern Ireland have remained essentially unchanged since they were first introduced in 1978 and since then changes in sentencing practice have meant that longer sentences are now being imposed than when rehabilitation periods were first established.
Naomi Long continued: "The changes that I intend to bring forward are long overdue. They will reset the periods for sentences to be spent and actively support rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration back into communities."
"However, public protection measures will not be reduced as existing measures relating to safeguards for sensitive employments, such as working with children, young people and vulnerable adults will remain unchanged."
The Justice Minister concluded: "I have shared my proposals for legislative reform for consideration by the Committee for Justice and I look forward to taking receipt of their comments on my proposed way forward in due course."
A report on the summary of responses to the consultation and way forward has been published at the publication section of this website.