How Long Does a Criminal Record Last on Your Police Check?
In Australia, a criminal record is created if you are convicted of a crime by the courts. When a criminal record is held in your name, it will remain there forever, unless it becomes eligible for legal removal.
Although criminal records are not uncommon, it can have a negative impact on the rest of your life. It can affect the opportunities available to you, from career prospects and living arrangements to travelling and licensing. You will find that many applications and services require the disclosure of a criminal record, and the prospect of this can be discouraging.
You might be wondering if there are time restrictions on your criminal record. While in lots of cases a record remains in existence for life, it is possible for certain offences to be removed or left out of a police check.
What is a Criminal Record?
A criminal record is a formal documentation of offences you’ve committed, if convicted by a court. It is stored in the Australian national criminal database and is accessible by authorities for specific reasons, including a criminal background check.
Different Criminal Records
There is an extensive list of offences committed which result in a criminal record. Some people have a series of offences on file, while others may acquire a criminal record from a one-off offence.
Criminal records are the result of multiple kinds of offences which people are found guilty of. Some examples of crimes stored in police records include;
- Drug offences
- Violence and sexually related offences
- Financial crimes
- Crimes against corporations
When background screening is performed, the national police check contains information relating to the individual’s police history. This can include;
- Sexually related offences
- Convictions against corporate organisations
- Convictions for traffic violations
- Pending charges and offences
- Other convictions eligible for disclosure
Does a Criminal Record Disclose all Offences?
With a criminal record, all offences you are convicted of by a court will be disclosed. There are some scenarios, however, when a criminal record is not immediately ruled. Certain factors are taken into consideration before an offence is registered on a criminal record.
The considerations can include;
- The nature and severity of the offence
- The age of the offender
- The offender’s character
- The severity of impact a criminal record will have on the offender’s life
Who has Access to Criminal Records?
The criminal record kept of an individual can only be accessed by the courts, the police, and requesting parties after obtaining your informed consent.
Consent must always be given, otherwise it is illegal to view the information contained on a person’s criminal record.
If applying for a police check online with an accredited provider, you will be asked to give your consent before any details are shared. This must be done in order for the application to progress.
What Impact does a Criminal Record Have?
If you have a criminal record for whatever reason, it means there is now a record of you having broken the law in some way. While a criminal record does not automatically banish you from living a normal life, it can have a significant impact. The severity of this depends on the seriousness and nature of the offence of which you’ve been convicted.
For instance, a traffic charge is less likely to interrupt your prospects than a conviciton for sexual assault.
If you do acquire a criminal record, you may experience some of the following issues as a result;
- Legal bans by law from working in certain occupations or voluntary services
- Travel restrictions
- Bans from leaving the region where you were convicted
- Certain license and registry restrictions
- Fines and penalties
- Prohibited access to certain people and/or places
Can a Criminal Record be Removed?
There are some instances where offences on a criminal record can be removed.
The Spent Convictions Scheme is a program used in Australia to assess the criminal records of individuals with longstanding records. A privilege of the program is that certain convictions are exempt from disclosure if and when they become spent.
The spent convictions legislation varies between states. You will need to look into the spent legislation of the state in which you were convicted for the correct information.
Other examples of when a record may be wiped is if an intervention or diversionary program is issued, or with a non-conviction order. These alternatives to a criminal record are only granted in exceptional circumstances and for crimes considered ‘less serious’ in their nature.
Does a Criminal Record Expire?
Criminal records in Australia do not have an expiration date. The record remains permanent, except on occasions where a conviction becomes spent. A spent conviction limits the disclosure of details surrounding the offence after some time has passed.
Does a Police Check Expire?
A national police check doesn’t expire officially, but it does not remain valid forever. You won’t find an expiration date printed, only the date of issue. The police check only contains information from records dating back to the time you submitted the application.
If you are convicted of an offence six months later, it would not be shown on your latest police check. An updated check must always be obtained to maintain accuracy.
Many employers, organisations and other agencies will request updated police checks at regular intervals. The exact time frame which a national police check is considered acceptable is at the discretion of the people who make decisions.
As well as excluding any convictions which occur after the initial certificate, an old police check also runs the risk of containing outdated information. For example, a conviction which is now spent will still be shown on an outdated police check.
The Spent Convictions Scheme
In a program created to mitigate discrimination against those who have a criminal record, spent convicitons law allows for certain past offences to be wiped from record. The individual offence must meet the conditions of the legislation in the relevant state for it to be successful.
Only some convictions are acceptable to become spent. More serious crimes will never reach spent status.
A major factor of the scheme is that the offender maintains a crime free period of;
- 10 years if the individual was convicted as an adult
- 5 years if the individual was convicted as a youth
If the person reoffends, the crime free period starts all over again.
Should an offence on your record fall under the spent convictions program, it will be excluded from the information released on a national police check. This gives you the right to non-disclosure, and you are no longer obligated to disclose this offence to any other party.
How are Spent Convictions Assessed?
The below is a general criteria of the assessment behind the spent convictions scheme. This is not the same in every state and territory. Different conditions and exclusions apply.
- A successful waiting period is reached, otherwise known as crime free period or rehabilitation period
- There is no record of any further offences during this time
- The imprisonment sentence was less than 30 months
- There is no statutory law that overrides the scheme (any legal exclusions)
Which Exclusions Apply to the Spent Convictions Scheme?
Legal exclusions apply to all offences stored on a criminal record. Only those which fulfil the criteria outlined by state laws will become eligible. Even if the waiting period has ended and no further crimes have occurred, serious offences will never become spent.
Exclusions to convictions include;
- Those which received a prison term of over 30 months
- Convictions for sexually related offences
- Convictions for serious violent offences and murder
- Convictions against corporate bodies
When authorities review a criminal record for the purpose of a national criminal history check, they must consider the impact of the offence. Any connections between a prior conviction and a job role for instance must be carefully assessed.
In the event that a person has child-related offences on their police record, it will be disclosed if that person seeks work in a child-occupied environment.
What Impact do Spent Convictions Have?
The most beneficial result of having a conviction spent is that you no longer have to disclose details of the offence to any requesting party. Should you be invited to interview and are asked about spent convictions, you do not have to discuss it.
Other parties are also prohibited from discussing the details of your spent convictions and face penalties should they do so.
You are under no legal obligation to discuss a spent conviction, unless where mandated by law. This is usually for the purpose of certain employment, such as working with children and other vulnerable people. You may also be forced to disclose the details of a spent conviction in the following situations;
- For certain licensing and registry purposes
- Employment with certain financial, corporate and government organisations
- Employment with Commonwealth organisations
- Any other instances where the law enforces the disclosure of police history records
Must I Apply to have a Conviction Spent?
Where a conviction is accepted under the spent convictions scheme, it will be removed automatically from your criminal record. Generally, convictions released from a criminal record check are not eligible if they appear in the results.
If you believe that your offence is eligible under the scheme, there is an option to apply for it. You should contact the relevant police jurisdiction to discuss your case and the application process.
Criminal Records and Discrimination
As a criminal record is not an attractive attribute to employers, it can unfortunately produce a negative impact on the way that you are perceived. However, in Australia it is an offence to discriminate against a person based on their police record.
According to the Australian Human Rights Comission, criminal record discrimination occurs when the following situations happen based on a criminal record;
- Job refusals
- Employment dismissal
- The denial of training opportunities
- Harassment in the workplace
The circumstances surrounding an individual’s criminal record and employment opportunities can be complex. For lots of jobs and voluntary roles, people with certain criminal convictions are not legally eligible to work. This must be assessed on an individual basis, and the inherent requirements of the job scrutinised against the details of a criminal record.
In order to request a police check from candidates, employers must determine that certain convictions are relevant to the job specifics and therefore must be disclosed.
How Long Does a Criminal Record Last on Your Police Check?
Your criminal record will last on your police check for as long as it exists and meets the requirements for disclosure. Police history is permanent, and even where spent legislation applies, the offence may still pop up in future should the state enforce it.
There are occasions where an offence is not shown in your police clearance. Each time authorities run a police check, they review the record and the purpose behind the check in detail. If an offence is considered irrelevant to the purpose of the check, police might choose to leave it out.
Overall, once you have a criminal record under your name, it can follow you around for the rest of your life. But it doesn’t mean everything has to be put on hold. There are many ways to move forward with a police record.