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MBABANE – The much needed legal instrument to allow for people with previous convictions to be employed or further their education has come into force.

This is none other than the Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Amendment) Act, 2018.

According to a gazette dated June 29, 2018, the Act came into force on the date of publication of the gazette.
This effectively means that criminal records shall no longer be valid after the last day of serving sentence.

Previous convicts had for years been faced with the headache of having their fingerprints expunged after the number of years they had been convicted had elapsed.  
The Act is a result of the amendment of Section 287 (3) on records of previous conviction and states that; “the record of a previous conviction of a child offender shall not be valid after the last day of serving sentence.”

In layman terms or as an example, a person who applies for a job, whether in the security forces or looking to further their studies in an institution of higher learning shall not be crucified for crimes they committed as minors.

Many people, such as children, who stole sweets or chocolates as minors, have found themselves unable to achieve much in life because their previous records would come back to haunt them.

On the issue of adults, the Act brings into effect that a record of previous conviction of any offender shall be valid for the period of the length of sentence imposed by the courts.
This, for example, means that if a person was convicted two years, the criminal record would only be valid for three years and thereafter it is expected to be removed.

It further provides that ‘a record of previous conviction of any person shall not be used in the consideration for education and employment’.

This also means that adults who have paid their dues to society after the expiry of a valid time allocated can feel free to apply for jobs or to further their studies without fear of their past coming back to bite them.

Another legal instrument which has been gazetted is the Witness Protection Act, 2018, whose aim is to provide for the establishment of a witness protection programme in the Kingdom of Eswatini and incidental matters.

The Act provides that any witness who has reason to believe that his or her safety or that of anyone they are related to is or may be threatened by any individual or group of persons, whether known to them or not, by reason of being a witness, may report such belief to the investigation officer in the proceedings concerned.
The witness may also report their belief to the public prosecutor concerned or any person in charge of a police station and if they are in prison, they can do same to the person in charge.
Also coming into force was the Election of Women Members to the House of Assembly Act, 2018 whose aim is to provide for the special election of women so as to give effect to Sections 95 and 86 of the Constitution of Eswatini, 2005, and provide for the process and mode of nominating them into the House.

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