Tonga considering clean slate legislation: police commissioner
Tonga considering clean slate legislation, following the discovery that people convicted of serious crimes are among those to have had their criminal records cleared.
Tonga's police commissioner says the government is considering introducing clean slate legislation, following the discovery that more than 170 people, some convicted of serious crimes, had their criminal records cleared.
New Zealand is among countries with clean slate laws which limit the effect of a person's convictions, if those with convictions meet relevant criteria.
The revelation that 172 people in Tonga had their records wiped, mainly so they could apply for overseas visas, sparked an investigation in February.
The commissioner Grant O'Fee says that is taking longer than expected because the United States, Australia and New Zealand are yet to confirm which officers issued the clearances.
He told Annell Husband Tonga had no clean slate legislation at that time.
O'FEE: I know it's being considered at the moment. But having said that, some of these offences were so serious that even under the most liberal clean slate legislation, you would never have wiped... I don't know of any country in the world that allows for rape and manslaughter, serious grievous bodily harm cases, to be clean slated, so to speak. It would appear, from what I know, that the late minister that allowed this system that I'm currently dealing with to exist possibly was trying to put in a form of that process to occur here by just informally saying, 'OK, if you've had some convictions for drunkenness or lower-level offending, we just wipe it because I'm the minister and that's what we do'. Now, that may have been his motivation, to allow people to go to New Zealand or Australia to get work. I don't know that. I'm just saying what people have told me. Now, that was probably fine up to a point, but at some point it went beyond that, and people with very serious criminal offences were given a clean bill of health, so to speak, and allowed to go to New Zealand or Australia. Now, it's at that point that it became very problematic for the reputation of the Tongan police and, indeed, for the reputation of Tonga.
HUSBAND: Just before you said there's no criminality involved, but if some of the offending was so serious and even under clean slate legislation should never have been wiped, how can there not be some sort of criminality to this whole case?
O'FEE: Well, there just isn't. It's not forgery, it's not false pretences. We've referred it to the solicitor general here, and there is no criminal offence committed. It showed poor judgement, in my view, and it showed a whole lot of other qualities that we'd rather not have in the police, but nonetheless, there is no criminal offending disclosed by these circumstances.
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