Spent Convictions and Changes to Vetting
The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 (the “Vetting Act”) was enacted in December 2012, however it was only commenced by way of Ministerial order on 29 April 2016. This legislation now places vetting on a statutory footing in Ireland.
Prior to the commencement of the Vetting Act, vetting was conducted on a voluntary basis, through the Garda Central Vetting Unit, who carried out vetting checks for organisation whose employees had a high level of unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults.
Now, vetting is mandatory for any organisation who carries out work or activity, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of employees having access to or contact with children or vulnerable people. These are set out in the schedule to the Act and include:
- Crèches and pre-school services
- Schools or other centres of education and training
- Drivers conveying children or vulnerable adults
- Hospitals or health services engaged in the provision of care for children and vulnerable adults
- Residential services and accommodation for children and vulnerable adults
- Treatment, therapy or counselling
- Providers of recreation, leisure and sporting facilities to children and vulnerable adults
- Those promoting religious beliefs, advice, guidance or developmental services
Key features of the Vetting Act
Since 29 April 2016, it is illegal for any organisation to retain the services of an individual either through an employment contract; contract for services; employment agency or voluntarily without obtaining a vetting disclosure in respect of that individual;
The Vetting Act requires a relevant organisation to undertake retrospective vetting no later than 31 December 2017. This involves vetting employees who are already employed in the organisation but who do not have a vetting disclosure;
The Garda Central Vetting Bureau has enhanced statutory powers under the Vetting Act and has been renamed the National Vetting Bureau of the Garda Siochana (the “Bureau”). It is tasked with maintaining a database which contains the following registers:
- A register of registered organisations
- A register of vetted persons
- A register of specified information
Specified information is a new concept under the Vetting Act. It essentially relates to information concerning a finding or allegation of harm which might reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern the individual might harm or put at risk of harm, a child or vulnerable person. It is colloquially referred to as “soft information” in circumstances where there is no requirement for a criminal conviction. Specified information can be provided by An Garda Siochana, arising from their own investigations or can be provided by one of the specified organisations under the Vetting Act, for example, the HSE or Teaching Council.
The delay in commencing the Vetting Act was as a result of the changes implemented by the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 Act which included amendments to the Vetting Act. In fact both Acts were commenced by the Minister for Justice on 29 April 2016.
A spent conviction is regarded as a conviction by the District Court, in respect of one offence where an individual has complied with the sentence imposed. It will be deemed to have expired after the passing of seven years. As a result, spent convictions will not be disclosed by the Bureau in a vetting disclosure under the Vetting Act. However, it will still be the case that all offences against the person and all serious convictions will be disclosed where the individual is applying to work with children or vulnerable persons.
The Vetting Act has brought about new statutory changes in vetting requirements for organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults. These must be complied with. Organisations that were registered with the Garda Central Vetting Bureau will be registered under the new system and do not need to re-register. However, organisations must ensure that they undertake vetting disclosures in respect of all of their employees no later than 31 December 2017.
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