What is a police check?
The National Police Check (NPC) is the standard criminal record check in Australia.
Obtaining an NPC is relatively straight forward. Any NSW resident aged 14 or older can apply to get one if it is required for the following purposes:
- Authorised carers
- Student placements
NPCs are released in accordance with federal and state legislation, including the Criminal Records Act 1991 (NSW).
What can it reveal?
An NPC will reveal ‘all disclosable court outcomes’.
- Convictions for criminal offences and major traffic offences (such as dangerous driving)
- Unexpired conditional release orders
- Outstanding criminal charges
- Unfinalised criminal court proceedings
Does this record last indefinitely?
A criminal offence will not be revealed on an NPC if the conviction is ‘spent’.
A spent conviction is a criminal conviction that has been removed from an individual’s record as a result of a significant ‘crime-free’ period of time.
Generally, you do not have to disclose spent convictions to a prospective employer.
However, there are some exceptions, such as if you are applying for one of the following positions:
- Justice of the peace,
- Police officer,
- Member of staff of Corrective Services,
- Teachers’ Aide.
In addition, anyone making an application for clearance under the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Worker Checks) Act cannot rely on their convictions becoming spent and must disclose them.
The exception also extends to anyone who has been convicted of arson (or attempted arson) and is seeking to apply to be appointed or employed in fire-fighting or fire prevention.
When does a conviction become spent?
This varies from state to state.
In NSW a conviction will normally become spent after 10 crime-free years or 5 crime-free years for offenders who have been convicted during childhood (10-17).
Are all offences capable of becoming spent?
Section 7 of the Criminal Records Act 1991 outlines that all convictions are capable of becoming spent, except the following:
- Convictions for which a prison sentence of more than 6 months has been imposed;
- Convictions for sexual offences;
- Convictions imposed against bodies corporate;
- Convictions prescribed in the regulations.
As you can see, a criminal record can have serious consequences on employment prospects. Therefore, if you have been charged with a criminal offence it is vital to seek advice from an experienced criminal lawyer.