Criminal allowed to hide hundreds of convictions

An Aucklander has concealed 232 convictions from potential employers under legislation that lets Kiwis hide their criminal history if they've had a clean record for seven years.

More than 115,000 New Zealand criminals have been allowed to hide convictions including fraud, bestiality, and indecent assault from prospective employers under the Clean Slate Act, which came in a decade ago.

The act allows people with less serious convictions to have them concealed if they meet the right criteria.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act show one Auckland criminal has had the luxury of concealing their former crimes, despite having racked up a staggering 232 convictions - the highest in the country.

The person's identity and type of offending can't be revealed.

Among the convictions concealed nationwide were assault on a child with a weapon, drink driving causing death, burglary, and indecent assault.

Convictions for tax fraud and bestiality were also hidden.

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 offence".

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 an 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 [232]," 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 stake."

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 past."

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 agencies.

Because New Zealand legislation doesn't bind foreign governments, convictions are also visible to overseas immigration authorities.

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: 232 (Auckland)

Source: Ministry of Justice

- By Cassandra Mason of APNZ

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