Courts seal youth criminal records

By Liu Meng Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-9 23:40:03

Beijing courts are preparing for the adoption of a new nationwide criminal law next year, under which some convicted juvenile offenders are to have their criminal records sealed, making it easier for them to apply for jobs or further education. 

According to the current Criminal Law, amended in 2011, most convicted criminals must  report their record when they apply to the military or for a job.

Those who were under 18 when they committed the crime, and were sentenced to less than five years in jail or to a non-custodial sentence, do not have to tell prospective employers of their conviction, but the employer can still access the record by applying to the police. 

China's new Criminal Procedure Law, which comes into effect on January 1, 2013, states that juveniles convicted and sentenced for less than five years will have their criminal record sealed. The records will not be given to organizations, companies or individuals.

Li Na, a judge who deals with juvenile criminal cases at Changping District People's Court, told the Global Times that to prepare for the new regulation, details about its implementation have been recently released to the court.

"The juvenile criminal record will be kept in court archives, and won't appear on the offender's personal file," she said. The procuratorate and the public security bureau where the offender is registered to live will also have the record, but will keep it secret, she said.

To join the military, the Communist Party of China or the civil service, an applicant needs a certificate from the public security bureau to show whether he or she has a criminal record. They can also be discriminated against when applying to university or for a job, Li said.

"Under this new system, if asked to give such a certificate, the public security bureau will issue one saying 'there is no criminal record,'" she said.

Cases show that sealing the records of juveniles can make a difference to their future prospects, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Sunday.

Shang Xiuyun, a juvenile court judge from Haidian court, applied to seal the records of a 15-year-old male offender named as Yangyang (pseudonym), the report said.

The boy was convicted of robbery and placed on probation before taking his college entrance examination, but after his records were sealed, he was admitted to a major university in Beijing and joined the Party while at university.

By contrast, Xiaoming (pseudonym), who received a criminal record after he stole a schoolmate's cellphone when he was 16, had a hard time finding a job because of his negative records. Without any income, he joined a gang of thieves and after being caught, was sentenced to two years in prison, said the report.

Zhang Jialan, who works in the HR department of a Japanese company in Beijing, said although sealing criminal records is done out of consideration to a person's future development, she still thinks it is unfair to the company who might employ such a person.

"If one has committed crimes, his or her files should have all the relevant records, because they might bring a security risk to the company," she said.

Wan Daqiang, a lawyer from Beijing Shangquan Law Firm, who specializes in child abuse cases, told the Global Times that although he understands these sentiments, he still fully supports the implementation of the new system.

"Without a criminal record on their files, employers will still be able to judge whether a person is suitable for the job by doing a thorough background check," Wan said.

"The children have paid the price for what they did. The should get the same chances as other people as long as they correct their mistakes," he noted.

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