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  • How far back does a police check go in Australia?

    It is harder for a conviction to escape being listed on a criminal record check result, except where special State legislation or the Spent Convictions scheme applies. In most circumstances, police check reports return complete with a comprehensive list of all the pending charges, court convictions, finding of guilt and sentencing of the applicant.

    What does a police check result contain?

    A result contains all finding of guilt, sentencing and other convictions of an individual. This report is unlimited by the State/Territory where the offence or when the crime is committed. Therefore, a criminal check result can go as far back as possible as long as the individual is found guilty of the offence.

    Furthermore, other conditions can make older convictions reflect on your police history check result. Some of them are;

    • The purpose of the Police Check is for Child/vulnerable roles;
    • Where the person is applying for a role in the sectors considered to be "sensitive" positions in Australia, certain offences relating to the role will be released on the check.

      A candidate applying for a role in the financial sector will have convictions of theft, misappropriation or conspiracy displayed on their check if it is in their police/criminal records.

      Other roles that will prompt certain convictions to be released on a police check result are;

        ✔ Teachers

        ✔ Volunteer workers and caregivers

        ✔ School bus drivers

        ✔ Nanny

        ✔ Child Doctors and other health services

        ✔ Other Child and vulnerable workers

    • A repeat of such offences;
    • Any applicant thinking there cannot be a re-feature of a conviction on their criminal background check result is wrong. Older convictions are generally released in an applicant's background check result if the applicant repeats such an offence.

      There is no limit to how many times an offence is displayed in a check. It will report an updated list of all the applicant's convictions deemed releasable by the State and Police authorities.

    • The Police Authority considers it spent
    • From the above reasons, it is evident that the age of a conviction does not matter as long as the authorities consider the conviction relevant to the purpose.

      The purpose for which you need a crime check influences the convictions that are displayed.

    • Where the offences do not qualify for the Spent Convictions scheme
    • In Australia, offences that qualify as being spent are removed from a candidate's results. If none of these offences meets the criteria by the spent convictions scheme, they are all listed irrespective of age.

      In WA, the applicants apply separately to a magistrate for their offence to be Spent and not be shown on their background check in WA. If the application is successful, that record is removed from their Police records. If an offence qualifies for Spent convictions, and the applicant fails to apply for such, the Police authority can still release such conviction on their updated criminal check.

    What are Spent convictions and offences?

    The Australian/Commonwealth legislation on criminal clearance checks offer applicants some kind of "way out" on older and "less serious" convictions in their police checks. It is unfair to hold a conviction of traffic infractions over 10 years ago against an individual compared to a child abuser.

    Offences that qualify for this “pardon” scheme are expunged from the individual’s criminal records. These offences are also known as the Spent Convictions.

    However, not all convictions may qualify under the Spent Convictions Scheme/Act. Only offences where some conditions are satisfied as required or stipulated by the court.

    Conditions that are covered under this scheme are;

      ✔ Where the conviction ought to be spent

      ✔ The individual is granted pardon for wrongful conviction

      ✔ The court quashes the convictions

    What qualifies an offence as a Spent?

    The scheme proposes various ways by which an offence may be “spent”. Some of them include;

    1. The individual is granted pardon for reasons other than that of a "wrongful conviction".
    2. The individual's conviction did not attract sentencing for more than 30 months (commonwealth)
    3. Period of "good behaviour" or waiting period for the individual ends without another conviction.

    The requirements for an offence to qualify as the Spent Convictions Scheme generally are;

    • Ten (10) consecutive years of the waiting period has elapsed since the person was convicted of the crime (in an adult court).
    • Five (3 for criminal record checks in NSW) consecutive years of the waiting period elapses since the person was convicted of the crime (in a youth court/as a juvenile).

    It also follows that;

    • The individual must not be convicted of any punishable offence during this waiting period, or the period restarts
    • If a jail term is imposed, the crime-free period begins after the jail term
    • Convictions stipulated by the court to be considered as Spent if the individual meets special conditions (community works, therapy, self-quarantine, and co.)

    Yet, some offences are never considered “Spent”. These offences are too “serious”, and will be revealed in the Police Check results no matter how old. Some of these offences are;

    • Sexually related convictions
    • Convictions against corporate organisations and institutions
    • Convictions stated by the regulations/Court sentencing
    • Convictions for which a prison sentence of six or more months is imposed

    How do I know the convictions on my police history check?

    You cannot be sure of the convictions on your record without obtaining it. The surest way of planning with your criminal records in consideration is by applying for a background check. However, applying is not as hard as it seems.

    Are Police Checks issued by the Police authorities? Yes, they are issued by a central government database and in some instances are vetted by state and territory police agencies if referred for manual processing.

    Must you visit a local Police branch to obtain it? No

    A convenient method to obtain a criminal check is; applying for a criminal record check online via Australian National character Check (ANCC).

    The process is 100% online and takes less than 12 minutes to complete from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.

    Applicants who go via the online method get their result delivered to their email mostly within 24 hours unless the check gets referred for manual processing by the central government database.

    What convictions should I accept on my police check normally?

    Convictions that will generally always show up on a police check result unless if the spent convictions rules apply include:

    • Convictions/Charges against corporate organisations
    • Sexually related offences
    • Traffic charges on the background check for which an individual is convicted in a court
    • All Sentences and Convictions
    • Pending court charges and offences
    • Other offences not under the Spent convictions scheme


    Section 85ZV of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) -

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