More than 115,000 New Zealand criminals have been allowed to
hide convictions including fraud, bestiality, and indecent
assault from prospective employers under a law that came in a
The Clean Slate Act allows people with less serious
convictions to have them concealed if they have been
conviction-free for seven years and meet other criteria.
More than 115,000 people have had their criminal record clean
slated since the act came into force in November 2004.
Among the convictions concealed were assault on a child with
a weapon, drink driving causing death, burglary, and indecent
Convictions for tax fraud, bestiality, and stabbing were also
One Auckland criminal had the luxury of concealing their
former crimes, despite having racked up a staggering 232
convictions -- the highest number concealed under the act.
To be eligible for a clean slate, someone must have been
conviction-free for the last seven years, never received a
custodial sentence, and not be convicted of a "specified
Specified crimes include sexual offending against children
and the mentally impaired, and can never be concealed.
Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said
employers should always be able to see applicant's history.
"If you've had a dishonesty offence ... and a small retailer
is going to employ you behind the cash till, that's directly
relevant, whether it's one or 282," he said.
"For many small businesses that's their income, it's them and
their house and the wellbeing of their family that's at
However, Pathways Trust reintegration manager Carey Ewing
said the clean slate law allowed former criminals to put
their mistakes behind them.
"New Zealand can be a particularly unforgiving environment
... [and] I don't think any of us would like to live a life
where we were solely judged upon the mistakes we made in the
Exaggerated media coverage of criminal offending had helped
fuel Kiwis' beliefs that people didn't change and the longer
offenders went to prison, the better.
A clean slate gave someone opportunities that public opinion
would not, he said.
The clean slate process is automatic, but only applied when a
criminal history request is made to the Criminal Records Unit
-- which processes about 450,000 requests a year.
While clean slate histories are hidden from most employers
making an enquiry about a criminal record, convictions are
still disclosed in applications for jobs as police, judges,
and roles involving the care of children.
Criminal histories are also visible to law enforcement
Because New Zealand legislation doesn't bind foreign
governments, convictions are also visible to overseas
By the numbers
Number of eligible people for whom an application for
criminal conviction information has been clean slated since
November 2004: 115,079
Clean slate recipient with largest number of convictions: 282
Source: Ministry of Justice
- By Cassandra Mason of APNZ