The importance of getting the police check purpose field right

The reasons why you may need a National Police Check (NPC) are numerous. You may be looking for a new job, volunteering at a not-for-profit, working with vulnerable people, applying for Australian residency or an international VISA, or complying with work-related legislation or regulations. The list goes on!

When you complete your NPC application, there’s a field dedicated specifically to what that purpose is. Give a false or misleading reason for needing your NPC? Your police check will likely be rendered useless…

Here’s why accuracy is critical when populating the ‘purpose field’ on your police check.

What is a police check?

A National Police Check is a point in time check (i.e., current at the date of issue) that discloses court outcomes released according to Federal, State and Territory legislation.

The disclosable outcomes listed on your check may include convictions, sentences, penalties and pending charges relating to:

  • Findings of guilt, good behaviour bonds, community-based orders, and suspended sentences
  • Traffic infringements (including but not limited to drink or drug driving and excessive speeding) for which you are convicted.

Why do I have to state the purpose of my police check?

The Australian Federal Police will only be able to run your NPC if its purpose is clearly and accurately stated.

Why? Depending on the reason you need an NPC, the records vetted may vary – exclusions contained in the Commonwealth Spent Convictions Scheme mean that only results relating to the check’s purpose can be released from the database. In other words, the level of information released on your NPC is based solely on the check’s purpose.

For example, if you need an NPC to work as a school gardener, the police information released (if any) will be relevant to your ability to fill that role only. If you provide incorrect or misleading information in the purpose field, the results provided may be inaccurate, rendering your police check un-usable for its intended purpose.

If you’re unsure what purpose to state, it’s always a good idea to ask your HR manager, or the person responsible for your recruitment, to supply you with an accurate and specific purpose description for your NPC.

What is the Spent Convictions Scheme and why is it relevant?

The Commonwealth Spent Conviction Scheme was created to prevent discrimination on the basis of previous convictions – it limits the use and/or disclosure of older (10 years old or more for adults), less serious convictions and findings of guilt. This means that spent convictions will not appear on an NPC if they are irrelevant to the check’s specific purpose.

Spent conviction legislation varies between States and Territories – police agencies in each jurisdiction apply the relevant legislation and policies when releasing information for individual checks.

Are there any purposes that are exempt from the Spent Convictions Scheme?

Due to the scheme, and depending on the role they’re applying for, candidates don’t necessarily have to declare past discretions. It is important to note however, that some categories of employment, and check purposes, are exempt from the legislation.

For example, according to State and Territory legislation sex offences are never spent and are always released regardless of the offence’s age. And if you require an NPC for working with children, any offence you’ve committed – regardless of age – may be released.

Older convictions and/or findings of guilt may be disclosed for the following NPC purposes (the following list is not exhaustive).

  • Working in aged care/working with the aged
  • Working with children/working as a teacher/teacher’s aide
  • Working with or caring for the disabled
  • Hospital employment
  • Firearms permit applications
  • Firefighting/fire prevention
  • Immigration/citizenship
  • Immigration detention centre employment
  • Some government security clearances
  • Superannuation trustee
  • Taxi/Uber/bus driver accreditation

Can your police check be used for more than one purpose?

No – because the nature of the records released on your NPC is determined by the information provided in the check’s ‘purpose’ field. A check requested to volunteer at an aged care facility can’t be used for any other purpose. It can, however, be used more than once, provided it’s for the same purpose and at the same point in time (you’re applying for two similar roles in the same industry at the same time, for example).

Key takeout

If you incorrectly populate the purpose field, your check will be invalid and you’ll need to re-apply. Always be accurate, and if you’re ever unsure it’s important to clarify!

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