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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Pre-Employment Screening Topics National Police Checks Is a national criminal history check the same as a police check?

    Is a national criminal history check the same as a police check?

    Background checks are an important process/stage before any admission or acceptance in Australia. Regardless of the role or position, it is likely that a decision-maker/employer will request a form of background report to assess your suitability for what you applied for.

    The most typical form of the background check in Australia is the Police background check issued by the National Police Checking Service. In other parlance, the Police background check may also be called a National Criminal History Check (NCHC). Both terms (when used for the purpose of employment, volunteering, licensing or accreditation) refer to the same thing; a national check to determine the releasable court convictions against a person in Australia.

    I have never heard of the Police Background Check in Australia

    The various modifications to the Police background check over the years have resulted in the adoption of several names for the Police background check. Therefore, do not be surprised if you see any of these terms as a substitute for the Police Check;

    What is the difference between the National Criminal History Check and a Police Check?

    The only difference between both terms is that the term Nationally Coordinated Criminal Criminal History Check (NCCHC) was adopted in July 2018 to replace National Police Check. Aside from an update of the name of "Police Check", there is no difference between the NCCHC and the NPC when the purpose of the check is for employment, volunteering, licensing or accreditation.

    If an employer or other third-party requests that you provide the National Police Check, they also refer to the NCCHC or other dominant term for the Police Check in your Territory or State. So, don't get confused over a modernisation of the words used to describe a background check in Australia.

    What does the National Criminal History Check contain in Australia?

    Like the Police Check, the National Criminal History Check (NCHC) is a background check that searches through the Australian criminal database and compiles all the releasable criminal records of the candidate.

    The details released in an NCHC can either be a Disclosable or a No Disclosable Court Outcomes.

    When there is a match of your profile on the Australian Criminal Database or the relevant records in the jurisdiction, they count as your Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO). Other records/criminal history that cannot be released due to specific legislation are part of the candidate's No disclosable court outcome (NDCO), or an NDCO could mean that the candidate has no criminal history at all.

    What are the Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO)?

    All your records that the State legislation certifies to be disclosed on your NCHC result are the DCO included in the NCHC result. The DCO are usually court issued sentences and convictions; it also contains the details of the penalty the court issues for the offence.

    An example of the details of a DCO are;

    • The convictions a court register against you

    All convictions for sentences issued by the Court are registered in the criminal records of the candidate. Most court convictions constitute your criminal records in Australia unless the Court gives lesser sentencing for your offence.

    Some examples of court convictions are;

    Generally, all your unspent convictions in Australia are the candidate’s disclosable court outcomes.


    • Arrest warrants for a criminal offence

    If the Court grants a warrant for a person's arrest for a criminal offence, it may appear on their records.


    • Finding of guilt

    Of course, if a court finds you guilty, it will appear on the NCCHC result unless the Court commits it to particular programs. Finding guilt means the Court finds you guilty and capable of punishments for the conviction but opts against convicting you.


    • Good behaviour bonds

    The Court orders a good behaviour bond where it feels the candidate deserves some mitigating conditions instead of sentencing. Although good behaviour bonds are not a conviction record for an NCCHC Check, the offences will show up for the bond period.

    The good behaviour bond can last between 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of offence or the conditions of the bond.


    • Ongoing charges

    Your ongoing charges are criminal matters still pending in Court. The Court/State may decide to include your criminal records depending on the relevance of the Check. Usually, it matters little that the matter is not even near completion before they have it on your criminal history check.

    What you will not find in a National Criminal History Check (NCHC)

    Certain records are beyond the scope of the NCHC due to the Australian legislation and disclosure policies. These records are the no-disclosable court outcomes of the candidate and will never show up in their Criminal record or NCHC result.

    Also, a candidate NCHC may return as an NDCO if they do not have any records (releasable records) on the Australian criminal database.

    Some examples of the NDCOs are;


    • Diversion programs

    The Magistrate may decide against sentencing a candidate and instead issue some programs that mitigate the effect of a penalty. A popular diversion program is where the Court gives a community release order sentencing instead of a jail term.


    • Non-finding of guilt

    The Court will sever all ties connecting you to the matter if it finds you not guilty. Also, the NCHC does not record a "not guilty" but does not show details of the matter on the NCHC result. It does not matter how long the proceeding is or the issues that transpired.


    • Overseas conviction

    The NCHC lives true to its name in being only related to national matters and convictions. Your overseas and other external convictions have no business on a Nationally coordinated background check.

    Organisations that consider the candidate's overseas record pertinent to the process must employ other means to access this record.


    • Matters settled outside the Australian courts

    All legal matters must be settled in courts or through any legal means under the law. However, if both parties reach an "out-of-court" settlement, it does not enter the criminal records. The NCHC only covers convictions and matters recorded by the Court.


    • Matters settled by an infringement notice.

    The Police or other regulated agencies may issue a direct and "on the spot" fine for certain offences, usually minor. If the offender settles this matter without contest, it will not enter their criminal records in Australia.

    However, if the offender contests the matter and loses, the Court will impose a conviction and include it in their NCHC.


    • Convictions issued by other (non statutory) agencies

    Convictions by religious, social or cultural agencies are not considered legal convictions or penalties in Australia. Unless the organisation convicts you before an Australian court, it does not enter your Police Check result.


    • Spent convictions

    Under the Spent convictions scheme, some offences are erased from a candidate’s records. The special thing about these Spent offences is that the offender must have satisfied a crime-free period and completed all other recommendations of the offence.

    What is the Spent conviction scheme?

    It is a scheme all around Australia to mitigate the penalties and stigma of having a conviction record. However, not all offences can be spent under the law; the scheme favours minor offences where the candidate has satisfied a crime-free period.

    What is a crime free period?

    It commences immediately after the person gets their conviction (or imprisonment if the Court borders a prison term). The crime free period is standard across Australia unless in the NSW, where the period is lesser for juvenile convictions.

    The general crime-free period in Australia is;

    • Ten years for adult convictions or convictions by an adult court
    • Five years for juvenile convictions or convictions in youth or juvenile Court. It has been three years in NSW.

    Where do I need the National Criminal History Check?

    More employers now request a Police Check before recruiting any candidate, primarily fulfilling their internal organisation policies. These employers cut across various and multiple sectors of the Australian sectors regardless of the roles.

    Some crucial sectors for the Police Check in Australia are;


    • NCHC for employments

    The NCHC results are tuned to the role/purpose the applicant selects; this option is always available on the Informed consent form at application. Most employers request the NCHC as a requirement for hiring a candidate to evaluate their suitability for the role.

    Employers also use various metrics to interpret or assess the results, and they are usually independent of government influence. If the candidate cannot provide an employment NCHC Check, the employer can streamline the process for all candidates, but with their informed consent.


    • NCHC for volunteers

    All volunteers in Australia, especially those in sensitive areas or sectors, must undergo a Police Check before accepting them for such roles.

    Since most volunteers do sensitive roles, it may be an offence for an agency to admit a person without conducting a background check. Although the Police Check may be mandated for volunteering, it is not the only background check; some roles may require broader checks as per the regulations.


    • NCHC for licensing

    The process for obtaining specific licenses begins with getting your Police Checks (NCHC). Licensing agencies consider the Police Check results useful documents for assessing how suitable the applicant is for the licenses.


    • NCHC for accreditation or professional bodies

    Your career path or growth may involve joining certain professional bodies in Australia. For example, every Territory or State has a professional body for all Educators, Engineers, Architects and so on. However, joining these bodies is not so easy due to all the high requirements. One of the requirements for joining these bodies is generally to provide a Police Check result.

    Accreditation/professional bodies assess the candidate’s Police Check to ensure that they will scandalise or negatively impact the organisation. Also, the updated Police Check routine ensures that the members are in line regarding their conduct with Australian laws.


    • Probity Checks

    It behoves specific organisations to request probity checks before granting the candidates certain privileges in Australia. The probity police checks determine the candidate's suitability when they apply for roles like;

    • Position of appointment
    • Becoming a trustee; holding testaments, wills
    • Holding sensitive positions

    Which Police Check certificate should I submit?

    The candidate/applicant can submit a Police Check (National Criminal History Check) for any of these purposes. The details of the NCHC in these cases are sufficient for the kind of evaluation the decision-makers do.

    However, there are specific roles or purposes where the NCHC may be insufficient, and the decision-makers will rightly demand relevant checks like the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Check.

    While the AFP Checks are not in any way superior to the NCHC, they have particular purposes or places of application like;

    • Commonwealth recruitments
    • Immigration or Visa requirements
    • Overseas based purposes or employments

    Where can I get a National criminal history check in Australia?

    Many mediums provide the NCHC to applicants who complete the informed consent forms. However, the most popular and quickest way to get the NCHC is generally to apply online through accredited service providers.

    Since the applications are completed online (including verification and payments), it tends to be quicker and more convenient to process a Police Check.

    Can I refer to all background checks as Police Checks?

    Not all background checks are Police Checks, but all types of police checks are background checks. However, Police Checks have become so popular that people refer to them as the original background checks.

    The National Criminal History Check is the same as a Police Check except those issued by the Australian Federal Police or a State or Territory Police Force for a purpose other than employment, volunteering, licensing or accreditation.

    How can I obtain a national criminal history check?

    Individuals

    If you are an individual, you can obtain a national criminal history check online via Australian National Character Check’s application and informed consent form. The results are dispatched via email.

    Business and Enterprise Customers

    Business and Enterprise customers are able to sign up to ANCC’s business portal where they can order, manage, track and view candidates’ police check results on their business portal.

    Organisations will undergo a process of approval prior to being granted access to ANCC’s business portal for the purpose of criminal history checks.

    ANCC sends an invite to the applicant to complete their background check online and handles the application and informed consent form. Contact ANCC’s business and enterprise partnerships team today to enquire about setting up a business portal for your organisation.

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