ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler
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What you need to know about getting your criminal record cleared #ConsumerTalk

The chances are we've all done things in our past that we're not proud of and wouldn't do again. That's life, right?

But what if the things you did when you were younger continued to have a direct impact on your life today?

For people with a criminal record, it can be that the decisions they make are governed by their actions in the past.

Travel plans, job opportunities, living arrangements can all be affected by a previous conviction.

But, did you know it IS possible for those with a criminal record to have it expunged, so long as they meet certain requirements.

The Criminal Procedure Amendment Act allows for those convicted of a minor offence, 10 or more years ago, to qualify for the expungement of their criminal records where the sentence was a suspended jail term, correctional supervision or a fine.

Throughout the country, there are companies who, for a fee, will do the legwork on behalf of those who want their records cleared.

CapeTalk listener Joaan M got in touch with one of them, Fresh Start Law Centre, for help in clearing her record for "something very stupid' she did 20 years ago.

The company claims to be SA’s leading criminal record removal firm, and the only one with dedicated consultants in the Department of Justice in Pretoria.

Joaan is a neo-natal nurse and in December last year, she was offered a nursing job in England for which she needed a police clearance.

But after enlisting the help of Fresh Start and paying R5,400 for the service to be fast-tracked, she was left feeling very dissatisfied with the service and contacted consumer journalist Wendy Knowler for help.

Among the promises on its website are the following: "We constantly track and monitor your progress 24/7. Clients are immediately notified by a case manager at each and every stage. We have a 99.95% success rate, and a money back guarantee.”

But that wasn't Joan's experience.

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After being told by the company that the expungement would be ready by 28 May Joaan rented out her house in Durban, sold her furniture, cancelled her medical aid and prepared to leave for the UK.

But to this day she is still waiting for the expungement certificate.

I had a look on consumer complaints website HelloPeter when I found more than 160 complaints about Fresh Start, many of them fresh. Most allege that once you’ve paid your money for the service, communication dries up.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

The CEO of Fresh Start, gave the following response when he joined Wendy Knowler on CapeTalk's Lunch with Pippa show on Wednesday.

At no point does Fresh Start Law Centre guarantee we can remove criminal records as each case is unique. Furthermore, the client is provided with a quotation detailing the entire service and timelines – to which the client accepted and paid (the line items were carried forward within the invoice attached). Plus the client accepted the terms of service which further details the exact process to be followed.

Ansar Sykes, CEO - Fresh Start Law Centre

Sykes says Joaan's case is at the final part of the first process, awaiting sign-off by the director-general.

Listen to the full interview below:


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