Tasmania’shas called for community consultations and submissions to an independent review of the operation of the Expungement of Historical Offences Act 2017 (Act 45 of 2017) (“Act”), which is to be completed within six months after the second anniversary of the Act’s commencement (the Act commenced on 9 April 2020). The requirement for review of the Act is in accordance with section 32 ("Review of Act") of the Act.
According to the Department of Justice, the Act provides a "scheme to enable charges and convictions for historical offences to be expunged. Historical offences include homosexual offences and cross-dressing offences".
The Tasmanian Government introduced the scheme as an important step forward in addressing previous laws that were unfair and unjust for many people in the community who endured disadvantage, discrimination and stigma.
Applications for expungement may be made by a person who was charged with an historical offence or, if that person is deceased, by other persons including a spouse, child, parent, sibling, niece, nephew or personal legal representative.
Former Magistrate, Ms Melanie Bartlett has been engaged to lead the review and will be assisted by Women’s Legal Service Solicitor, Ms Taya Ketelaar-Jones.
The Examiner notes that Tasmania was the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997, with cross-dressing decriminalised in 2000. Expungement Scheme Independent Reviewer, Ms Melanie Bartlett, said the “review would report on the implementation of the scheme and assess if it had operated effectively and as intended”.
Ms Bartlett said:
Applications for expungement are made to and determined by, the Secretary of the Department of Justice.
The DoJ website, indicates the object of the review will be to:
"Assess and report on:
1. The outcomes of the applications for expungement made since the commencement of the Act including:
(a) the number of applications resulting in the expungement of charges;
(b) the number of applications where the Secretary has refused to expunge a charge and the reasons for the refusal;
(c) the number of applications that have been withdrawn; and
(d) the number of applications for review under section 21 of the Act and the outcomes of those applications for review.
2. Whether the provisions of the Act are operating effectively and as intended with a particular focus on:
(a) the application process;
(b) the process for the annotation of official criminal records; and
(c) the legal effect of expunged records.
3. Whether there are any deficiencies or unintended consequences of and/or impediments to the implementation of the Act, with a particular focus on identifying any issues or deficiencies in the scheme which may have contributed to the low number of applications.
4. Whether there are any suggested improvements, including any recommendations for law reform of the Act".
The review will report on the implementation of the Act and assess whether it is operating effectively and as intended.
The report on the outcome of the review is to be tabled in each House of Parliament within 10 sitting days of that House after the review is given to the Minister.
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