Does the Clean Slate Act apply to publications of criminal convictions primarily overseas?

Question Details: My friend was convicted in the 1980s of theft. The story of the theft is apparently going to be published on the liner notes of an album released in the United States of America (but will also be available in New Zealand). Can my friend use section 13 of the Clean Slate Act to prevent this publication?

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

No, the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act does not apply in your friend's situation.

The clean slate scheme only means that people with some kinds of "old" convictions, and a "clean" record for at least the last 7 years don't have to disclose the old convictions when asked in New Zealand, for instance on an employment application. The Ministry of Justice cannot normally disclose the old convictions, for instance to an employer, if the Clean Slate Act applies. But the convictions still exist and may be relevant, for instance if someone commits a new offence. There are also exceptions to Clean Slate applying, including when you are asked for information by another country for immigration purposes. There is a summary of how the Clean Slate scheme works, and when it doesn't apply, at www.communitylaw.org.nz.

The important thing for your friend is that Clean Slate only affects the person with the criminal record, like your friend, and the government departments who hold records of offences about them. Clean Slate does not stop private individuals, the media, or anyone other than NZ government departments or their employees from disclosing that your friend may have committed some offence, been convicted and suffered some penalty. This is definitely the case if the information is published overseas. But it is also true if the information is published in New Zealand.

Section 13 of the Act does not apply to your friend. That section only protects someone who is applying to a court to have a conviction exempted, that would otherwise stop Clean Slate applying to them. Section 13 means that Clean Slate will apply to them temporarily, until their application or appeal is decided.

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