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Criminal Record Expungement

Have your criminal record expunged
To ensure a just society and to re-integrate offenders into the community, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development assists on the expungement or removal of criminal records. This enables offenders to carry on with their lives without a criminal record being an impediment to employment opportunities.

The difference between expungement and a presidential pardon
A presidential pardon is a complete forgiveness of the crime of which the party being pardoned was convicted. According to our constitution the decision to pardon or not can be taken only by the South African president. The pardon process is a long one and can take two years or longer to finalise due to the involvement of various role players. Both the processes of expungement and a presidential pardon are free of charge.


What is the expungement of a criminal record?
The expungement of a criminal record refers to a process whereby a person can have his/her criminal record expunged from the national criminal register. Expungement of a criminal record came as a result of an Amendment to Criminal Procedure Act which came into operation in May 2009.

For an individual to have their criminal record expunged, the requirements are that a conviction should be ten (10) years old; or had received a fine of less than R 20 000 for the committed offence.

Over a period of ten (10) years, a person should not have been sent to prison for another offence. If an offence is of a sexual nature and a child was involved, the perpetrator's name will be included in the National Register for Sexual Offender (NRSO). If the victim was a disabled person, this will automatically disqualify a person from having their criminal record expunged.

What is the procedure to follow to expunge a criminal record?
The applicant has to obtain a clearance certificate from the South African Police Services, complete a prescribed form available on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development's website and all magistrate's offices. The clearance certificate must be attached to the application form and be posted or faxed to the department for processing. Once the application is received with all the relevant information, the matter is finalised within four months.

What happens after the procedure has been done?
The application has to be verified by different officials within the department and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development's director-general has the final say on whether the request should be granted or not. As soon as a decision is taken, the application is taken to the police to effect the expungement and inform the applicant of the outcome thereof.

What progress has been made in cases brought to the department to be expunged?
There has been a steady increase in a number of applications received by the department for expungement since it was first introduced in May 2009, a total number of applications received was 3200 and continued in an upward trend with the latest total of 7000 in 2011.

Justice Today 2012, Issue 1, p 20