What information a police check gives you

Whether you’re hiring for a key position or screening potential business partners, investment deals or even tenants in some cases, you probably want to know if your prospective employee, partner or tenant has a clear criminal record. In Australia, the best place to start your search is with a police check, but what exactly is it, what can a check tell you, and more importantly, what won’t it tell you? When do you need an international criminal background check? We’ve got the long and short of it, right here.

What Are Police Checks?

Australia has two main types of police checks: one based on the applicant’s name, and one based on fingerprints. In the first, the applicant’s name and birth date is compared with criminal records held by the police, and in the second, the applicant’s fingerprints are compared with the criminal database.

In either case, the result is a report of all convictions, whether current or past, as well as other information like a “finding of guilt” which may not have resulted in a conviction, traffic infringements and spent findings.

It’s also important to note there is a difference between a national and a state police check, and you might not find all the information available if you choose the wrong type of check.

In most cases, applicants need to apply for police checks in person, and they will need to provide identification and pay a fee. You also cannot, as an employer and under certain other circumstances, discriminate against a prospect or candidate because of criminal history not related to the job or scenario in question.

Essentially, police checks can be delicate, and while they are undoubtedly valuable you will need to be cautious when requesting and interpreting them.

When Police Checks Don’t Help

In some cases, a police check won’t help you determine the suitability of a prospective employee, because the criminal records that matter are not held by Australian authorities. This is the case when the offence was committed outside of Australia, and in such instances you will need an international criminal background check to verify the criminal history of the person in question.

Once you head into international police checks, you’ll find many more factors to deal with than you do with national checks:

  • Firstly, you need to ascertain which countries the applicant has visited or lived in.
  • Next, it’s necessary to know which government departments and other organizations to contact and how to approach them.
  • Finally, in many cases the information will be in a foreign language, which requires competent translation.

After you’ve obtained international criminal background check information and had it translated, there’s still the matter of interpreting it and in some cases, comparing foreign convictable offences with the Australian equivalent.

If It Matters Enough, It Matters Enough to Do Properly

In a nutshell, police checks are a complex undertaking, and global checks are even more so. If you’re going to take the time and effort to conduct these sorts of checks as a part of your due diligence process, then it’s worth hiring a professional organization to make sure you not only get the right information but you use it correctly.

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