Criminal record checks are a norm when you are seeking employment. Even before they can offer you a job interview, employers might be asking if you have had any trouble with the law. It is a fairly common procedure during the recruitment process, and it is essential if you wish to travel and work overseas. Obtaining an employment pass or a visa overseas is always quite difficult; for the sake of national security, detailed background checks are conducted, which of course includes your criminal records. 

 

What is a criminal record check?

In Australia, that would be the National Police Check (NPC). The most basic and frequently used criminal record check, the NPC is often requested by employers as evidence of a person’s criminal history.

NPC can be conducted on all residents of Australia; this includes both the citizens and the non-citizens who live in the country. 

Employers often require the NPC as a procedural check during the recruitment phase. This acts as a basic background check to reassure employers that their prospective employee is of good morals and a way to mitigate the risk of fraud, larceny or criminal activity from occurring.

For the purpose of employment, anyone can easily apply for an NPC to provide it to all prospective employers. 

Any employer who wishes to request for an NPC of an employee has to first obtain permission. The employee has to give his written permission – the pro forma document has to be carefully filled out, dated and signed.

Along with your permission slip, your prospective employer would often provide the company’s policy which would clearly state the specific criminal history required for the position you are applying for. It is, however, not strictly necessary to do so.

Do note that the validity of NPC only lasts for a day; after the day of issue, it expires. You might want to provide an updated record of your criminal history, and employers should also seek an updated check on the person’s criminal history if the last NPC was issued some time ago.

 

Who can apply for an NPC?

Anyone who is currently a resident of Australia above the age of 14 can apply for an NPC.

However, where you can apply for an NPC is restricted to your usual state of residence.  Those who often travel around for business purposes or studies may not be able to apply at the state of Australia they are currently staying at. You may be asked to apply at the state you normally stay at.

 

What appears on your NPC?

Details of your criminal record are sourced from the National Names Index (NNI). 

All “disclosable court records” will be revealed. This includes unspent convictions, unexpired good behavior bonds for findings of guilt with no conviction, outstanding criminal charges, and unfinalized criminal court proceedings. 

Expired bonds for finding of guilt without conviction is not disclosable and should not appear on your NPC, according to Section 8(4) of the Criminal Records Act (CRA) 1991. 

However, this does not hold under all circumstances. According to Section 7 of the CRA, not all convictions are capable of being “spent” (i.e it cannot be disclosed or taken into consideration for any purpose). Furthermore, under section 5 of the CRA, findings of guilt are treated as convictions.

The convictions include:

  1. A conviction for which a prison sentence of more than 6 months has been imposed
  2. Sexual offenses 
  3. Imposed against bodies corporate 
  4. Other convictions prescribed by regulations

 Details under another name or alias will not be disclosed in the NPC unless you have submitted your application, or you have given your fingerprint. 

There is a possibility of inaccuracy, due to the unavoidable time lag between the court orders and the updating of records on the NNI, the NPC will not include convictions that had yet to be recorded in the NNI. 

Offenses that are prosecuted by non-police organizations and details of conviction might not be submitted to the NNI, and hence are not included in the NPC. 

 

Which convictions are capable of being spent?

According to the CRA 1991, a spent conviction is one that does not need to be disclosed and should not be taken into consideration for any purpose. This includes employment purposes. Hence, once the offender completes a period of crime-free behavior, the conviction will be “spent” and will not be included in the NPC. 

Hence, a finding of guilt without a good behavior bond will be dismissed immediately, and considered a spent conviction, according to Section 10 of the CRA. 

Finding of guilt with a good behavior bond will naturally become a spent conviction after the expiry of the bond. 

The individual has to complete a period of crime-free behavior of no less than 10 years. His conviction will only be “spent” if:

  1. The person has not been convicted of an offense punishable by imprisonment, and 
  2. Has not been in prison because of a conviction for any offense or has not been unlawfully at large. 

Spent convictions will only be released if required for a category of employment which includes child-related work, or judicial or police-related work.

 

How to apply?

Simply apply by filling out an application form online.

You must provide three different types of personal identification which contain a current photo, states your date of birth, and has your signature. Identification must be original, photocopies are not accepted.

Head on to the NSW Police website, they have a list clearly stating the forms of personal identification that are accepted. 

Applications take several weeks to be processed. A minimum of 10 days is required for name and date of birth checks, 15 business days for the name, date of birth and fingerprint checks.

 

How much does an NPC cost?

According to the NSW Police Force website, the fees are as follows:

National name and date of birth check: $58.60

National name, the date of birth and fingerprint check: $197.20

National name and date of birth check for volunteers working in Commonwealth supported aged care: $15

What if I dispute the findings of the check?

If you do not agree with the information in the NPC, complete the Form P827 ‘Disputing criminal record information’ and submit it to the NSW Police Force, Criminal Records Section. Specify the information you disagree with and be prepared to provide fingerprints for comparison. Fingerprints will be destroyed upon the resolution of the dispute. Supporting documentation may be needed to support your claims. 

NPC is an important piece of documentation for employment purposes and it is highly advisable for you to obtain one. Do note that the NPC is often requested by most employers. In fact, it is a compulsory component of the recruitment process when applying for a government position, as well as any child-related work.