The law and the business of criminal record expungement in South Africa

This report reviews the use and expungement of criminal records in South Africa and was prompted by a recent amendment to the Criminal Procedure Act which created, for the first time, a mechanism for certain criminal convictions to be expunged. The situation of criminal records and their expungement is, however, not a simple one and the creation of additional registers (Sex Offender Register, Child Protection Register and Diversion Register) have added another dimension to the issue. The overall impression from the legal framework is that different pieces of legislation use different yardsticks in respect of expungements. It is furthermore a general conclusion that the scope of the mechanism created in the Criminal Procedure is extremely narrow and that very few former offenders would in fact benefit from it. The creation of this mechanism also saw the private sector creating a profit opportunity with some companies charging amounts as high as R7 500 for handling the expungement application, a procedure that should cost no more than R100. The report concludes by recommending that the retention and expungement of criminal records should be selective, purposeful and based on knowledge.

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