How to get your criminal record expunged in SA

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In 2009 the South African Justice Department implemented a law to help those who wanted their record clean to make applying for jobs easier (Shutterstock)

Finding work as a convicted criminal in South Africa is challenging, even if the crime was minor. Employers are allowed to ask applicants about their past criminal records, and failure to disclose any criminal convictions can lead to a later dismissal if the truth comes to light.

While it might seem unreasonable for an employer to discriminate against an applicant based on a minor crime, it is not always grounds for a case of unfair discrimination. Employers must however consider the nature of the crime and the responsibilities of the position.

In 2009 the South African Justice Department implemented a law to help those who wanted their record clean to make applying for jobs easier, and to assist anyone convicted of apartheid era crimes.

The expungement procedure results in the lawful clearance and removal of a criminal record on an individual's record from the National Criminal Register. This will allow a person to carry on with life without a criminal record being an obstruction to employment opportunities.

Who may apply for the expungement of a criminal record?

According to the Department Of Justice and Constitutional Development a person may apply if:

-          The sentence of imprisonment was suspended wholly

-          The sentence was correctional supervision in terms of section 276(1)(h) of the Act

-          They have not been convicted and sentenced to a period of imprisonment without the option of a fine during those ten years

-          The sentence was corporal punishment

-          The sentence was postponed or the person was cautioned and discharged

-          A period of 10 years has passed after the date of the conviction for that offence

-          The sentence was a fine not exceeding R20 000

-          The sentence was imprisonment with the option to pay a fine (not more than R20 000) instead of serving the period of imprisonment

-          Proof is provided that a person’s name has been removed from the National Register of Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register, if relevant

A person will not qualify if:

-          He or she was convicted of a sexual offence against a child or a person who is mentally disabled or of an offence, where he or she was found to be unsuitable to work with children.

-          He or she was sentenced to direct imprisonment.

-          A fine of more than R20 000 was imposed.

For more information about who may qualify, see Application for Expungement of a Criminal Record

Note:

-          Before submitting the application for expungement of a conviction, a clearance certificate showing that a period of 10 years has lapsed after the conviction(s) and sentence(s), must be obtained from the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service. The clearance certificate must be attached to the application.

-          If the person’s name has been included in the National Register for Sex Offenders, a confirmation must be obtained from the Registrar that his or her name has been removed from the Register. The confirmation or a certified true copy of the confirmation must be attached to the application.

-           If the person’s name has been included in the National Child Protection Register, a confirmation must be obtained from the Director- General: Social Development that his or her name has been removed from the Register. The confirmation or a certified true copy of the confirmation must be attached to the application.

What does the process entail?

Once the applicant has completed the relevant application form they can be posted or delivered by hand, together with the relevant attachments, to the Director-General: Justice and Constitutional Development at

Postal Address: Private Bag X 81 Pretoria 0001

or Street Address: Momentum Centre, 329 Pretorius Street (corner of Pretorius and Prinsloo streets), Pretoria 0001

If the Director-General is satisfied that a person meets the requirements the head of the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service will confirm to the person in writing that the conviction(s) and sentence(s) in question has/have been expunged. If the application for expungement is refused, the person will be informed by post of this decision and the reasons for the decision.

The service is rendered free of charge by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, but a number of businesses exist to help facilitate the process for a fee (from about R2200 for the whole process), or a lawyer can be hired to assist.

Find the application forms here

Further enquiries can be emailed to expungements@justice.gov.za.