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  • Legislation to expunge the criminal records of persons convicted for possession of, or smoking small quantities of ganja was passed in the Senate on Friday, July 3.
  • In piloting the legislation, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding stated that the Government is embarking on a reform of the laws relating to ganja.
  • He said concerns have been raised in regards to the length of time persons have to wait to qualify for their records to become expunged and their inability to attract gainful employment during that protracted period.

Legislation to expunge the criminal records of persons convicted for possession of, or smoking small quantities of ganja was passed in the Senate on Friday, July 3.

Under the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Act, convictions for possession of two ounces or less of ganja, or for smoking ganja, or possession of pipes or other smoking utensils, will not attract a criminal record.

In piloting the legislation, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding stated that the Government is embarking on a reform of the laws relating to ganja.

He said concerns have been raised in regards to the length of time persons have to wait to qualify for their records to become expunged and their inability to attract gainful employment during that protracted period.

“A clean police record is required to access several areas of employment such as the farm work programme, basic school teachers, security guards and a myriad of other sectors of employment. A criminal record may prevent persons from obtaining credit from financial institutions, or from travelling overseas or emigrating from Jamaica,” he stated.

The Bill also makes provision for the expungement of convictions under Section 10 of the Sexual Offences Act once the term of imprisonment does not exceed five years.

Section 10 of the Sexual Offences Act makes it a serious criminal offence for anyone to have sex with another person, who is under the age of 16 years, regardless of the circumstances.

“As the law now stands this applies even in the case of consensual intercourse between precocious teenagers in a boyfriend/girlfriend situation. It is my intention that this provision will be reviewed by the Joint Select Committee that has recently been appointed to review the Sexual Offences Act,” Senator Golding said.

He noted that expungement will not apply for convictions for any other sexual offences.

Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, in voicing support, said the amendments “foreshadow a more humane approach to how we deal with persons who get a conviction for what we might wish to consider minor offences and how they rehabilitate themselves in society.”

“I think that this approach that we are taking with the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act is the proper approach,” he added.

Government Senator, K.D. Knight, also welcomed the amendments.