C. Implications of Spent Convictions
Subject to some important exceptions in s. 4 of the RHO, where a conviction is spent, no evidence tending to show that the person was convicted in Hong Kong is admissible in any proceedings in Hong Kong. Subject to the exceptions in s. 4 of the RHO, the conviction, or its non-disclosure, is not a lawful or proper ground for dismissal or exclusion from any office, profession, occupation or employment or for prejudice against that person in the person’s office, profession, occupation or employment. This means that an employee with a spent conviction must not be treated less favourably than other employees because of that conviction.
Section 3(1) of the RHO provides that the provisions about spent convictions in s. 2(1) of the RHO do not affect the recovery of any fine ordered on that conviction. An offender given time to pay might, for example, leave Hong Kong without paying the fine. The fine is still enforceable even if that person returns to Hong Kong more than three years after the date of the sentence. Even if the conviction is spent under s. 2(1) of the RHO, there is still an obligation to pay the fine.
Section 3(3) of the RHO states that previous convictions, even if spent, can come into evidence on sentencing for subsequent offences. It is important that the court has the full picture of an offender before sentencing. Though a previous record is not a reason to increase a sentence, a repeat offender cannot expect to be treated as a first offender. However, in practice courts tend to disregard spent convictions, especially if there has been a long period between the offences.