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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Spent Convictions Scheme Do criminal records get wiped after turning 18 in Australia?

    Do criminal records get wiped after turning 18 in Australia?

    Criminal records are helpful to the courts, employers and almost all licensing agencies in Australia. However, these records may be detrimental to a youth or the individual as they grow up.

    If you have a conviction in your records in the Police or the Youth justice system, it may be revealed on a police check if you request it. Also, the offence may even go on to form part of your adult criminal records.

    However, it is erroneous to think that the criminal record of a juvenile is wiped off automatically at 18 years. Criminal records do not get wiped after turning 18 in Australia. Instead, criminal records in Australia can only be expunged if they qualify for the Spent Convictions Scheme of the State of Territory where the offence occurred.

    What is a Criminal Record in Australia?

    A criminal record is a document that reveals all the Court cases or offences the youth receives a conviction for. Just like an adult Police criminal record, any youth found guilty of an offence in court will have the details of the case shown in their youth record.

    Can a youth appear before the court?

    Yes, under the Sentencing Act in Australia, juveniles can appear before the youth court if they;

    Have reached certain ages (usually 10 -17 years),


    If the prosecution can prove that they are fully aware of the crimes.

    However, the children court cannot hear fatal cases like Murder, Rape, Arson or causing death. It is transferred to the Supreme or County Court.

    The Police or other prosecuting party will charge the youth to court if they have committed an offence against them. However the court a youth is charged in, differs from the usual adult court; it is called a juvenile court or a youth court.

    The Youth courts must by the legislation ensure at all times, the juvenile understands all the proceedings.

    What happens at the Youth court?

    If the court finds the youth guilty of the offence they are charged for, it will issue the appropriate penalties per Australian legislation.

    Before imposing a penalty, the court will consider;

    • Impact of the crime,
    • The nature surrounding the crime,
    • Other alternatives to a penalty will rehabilitate the youth.

    Will a Youth get a criminal conviction?

    Yes, there will be criminal records for each of their convictions, sentencing and so on. The criminal records usually remain till the stipulated period per Australian rules on Criminal records.

    However, for Commonwealth offences, the records will last for 5 years if the person was;

    Convicted in a youth court,


    was under the legal age (18) at the time of their conviction.

    What offences are released in an Australian Police Check?

    The Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check record for a youth or juvenile details all their contacts with the criminal justice system in Australia. They include all serious and minor offences the youth is convicted for under the Crimes (Sentencing) Act:

    • Assault offences,
    • Underage driving,
    • Underage drinking,
    • Theft cases and destruction of properties.

    For adults;

    • Convictions/Charges against corporate organisations,
    • Sexually related offences,
    • Murder, Arson, and co.
    • Traffic charges for which an individual is convicted in a court,
    • All Sentences and Convictions,
    • Pending court charges and offences,
    • Other offences are not under the Spent convictions scheme.

    Spent conviction scheme in Australia

    There is a special law in all Australian States and Territories that limits the disclosure or consideration of certain offences. It means that once these offences satisfy these conditions, they are no longer disclosed, either to employers or in the Police Background Check results.

    This legislation or scheme is known as the spent convictions scheme and stipulates the offences that are eligible for the scheme.

    Under the Spent Convictions Scheme, an offence is spent where;

    1. The individual is granted a pardon for a reason other than that of a "wrongful conviction",v
    2. The individual is not sentenced to prison for more than 30 months (Commonwealth),
    3. Period of "good behaviour" or waiting period has ended without another conviction.

    What is a Period of "good behaviour" (Commonwealth)?

    The Part VIIC of the Crimes Act of 1914 (Commonwealth) stipulates the conditions for spent convictions;

    1. For juveniles/Youth, or a person convicted by a juvenile court; the waiting period is 5 years. This waiting period is 3 years in Australia.
    2. For adults (>18), or an individual that gets a conviction in an adult court; the waiting period is 10 years.

    However, if an individual gets a conviction within the waiting period, they lose the right to have the conviction treated as "spent".

    The Good behaviour period does not apply to offences that are;

    • Pardoned or quashed
    • Incurred a sentencing period greater than 30 months
    • A statutory or prescribed exclusion must not override a “spent conviction” application.

    The Period of good behaviour is a "promise" of the individual to not commit an offence within the period agreed in court. The court issuing the sentencing may impose the Good Behaviour Bond to an individual where they conclude;

    • Other punishments are inappropriate
    • Will best help the individual’s rehabilitation
    • The offender will not re-offend based on their prior criminal history

    What offences are not eligible to be spent?

    Under the Spent convictions legislation in Australia, a conviction will be spent if;

      ✔ If the convictions ought to be spent
      ✔ The individual is granted a pardon for wrongful conviction
      ✔ The convictions are quashed

    However, not all offences are eligible to be spent either for an adult or a juvenile. If a juvenile commits an offence that cannot become spent, it will continue to their adult Criminal records and subsequently appear in their National Police Clearance results.

    Some of these offences are;

    • Sexually related convictions,
    • Convictions against corporate organizations and institutions,
    • Convictions stated by the regulations/Court sentencing,
    • Convictions for which a prison sentence of six or more months is imposed,
    • Public abuses and misappropriations,
    • Serious Financial Crimes,
    • And other convictions where it is necessary to disclose them for the role you apply for.

    What are the benefits of the Spent Convictions Scheme?

    There are lots of benefits to having your offence spent even for those convicted in an adult court. However, the best of them is;

    • Right to “silence” (Non-disclosure)

    The Spent convictions scheme allows an individual to remain silent about a conviction if they're spent, pardoned or quashed. The individual will not be obligated by any authority to disclose the details of the conviction, be it federal, state, territory or foreign offences.

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