Press Release

Criminal justice system is failing people in addiction, says Merchants Quay Ireland

Criminal justice system is failing people in addiction, says Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay supports Senator Lynn Ruane’s Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill to modernise spent convictions legislation

Merchants Quay Ireland, the national homeless and addiction charity, has said people recovering from addiction are being failed by the criminal justice system, as it urged the Seanad to support Senator Lynn Ruane’s Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018.

The Bill seeks to expand fairer access to spent convictions, which are minor convictions that do not have to be disclosed after a set period of time when applying for a job, returning to education or when being Garda vetted.

In announcing their support, the charity’s CEO Paula Byrne said:

“Merchants Quay sees over 3,000 clients in drug treatment and counselling each year. The people who go through that difficult process of rehab and recovery want to rebuild their lives. The reality is, however, that the current legislation is holding people back, jeopardising the recovery they fought so hard for.

“People who go through treatment should not be faced with additional, unnecessary barriers in their recovery. Senator Ruane’s Bill introduces the proportionality and understanding lacking in the current legislation. The Bill is in line with the Government’s own health-led drugs strategy and, if passed, will help to give people a second chance.”

Alan, a client of Merchants Quay, commented on the impact a conviction can have when trying to move on:

“It doesn’t only hurt the person that’s going for a job, because when an employer finds out, that’s the fear I have: people knowing who I was and not who I am. It’s families as well. Imagine a father with a past and he can only settle on minimum wage because of a stupid mistake he made when he was younger? It’s not only affecting him, but his young kids and their quality of life.”


For more information, please contact:

Andrew Rooney
Communications Officer
Merchants Quay Ireland
T: 01 531 2958
M: 086 7793 208

Twitter: @MerchantsQuayIR


Notes to the Editor

Merchants Quay policy on spent convictions

For more information on MQI’s position on spent convictions, please visit

About Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland is a leading Irish charity working with people who are homeless and in addiction. The organisation provides services ranging from open access crisis intervention and health promotion services to day-support programmes, educational programmes, vocational training, residential treatment, detox and prison counselling.

About the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018:

  • Expand eligible sentences to be spent from 12 months up until 24 months. 24 months is much closer to the European average and allows for more people to rehabilitate.
  • Increase the limit on convictions that be may spent from one to two.
  • Make the rehabilitative period until the conviction becomes spent proportional to the length of the sentence.
  • Make account for the additional rehabilitative needs of young people by giving them an extra opportunity for a spent conviction and proportionally shorter rehabilitative periods.
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