Do you know the difference between a police background check, a criminal record check, and a vulnerable sector check? Has a prospective employer ever asked you to complete one of these personal background checks? It may shock you to find out what information could appear depending upon the search you have completed.
Police officers (local, provincial and the RCMP) in the course of their duty as law enforcement officers collect and retain all kinds of information, not just records of criminal convictions. Police agencies, at their discretion, can then decide what information they wish to store in electronic databases. The information that police agencies collect and retain can result in what is commonly referred to as “non-conviction records”. These non-conviction records can contain details with respect to any contact, direct or indirect, you may have had with the police, including but not limited to details regarding;
- Being charged with a criminal offence and the charge subsequently withdrawn.
- Being found not guilty to a criminal charge.
- Receiving an absolute of conditional discharge as a result of criminal charges against you.
- Entering into a Peace Bond.
- A complaint made against you but you are never charged with a criminal offence.
- Being a person of interest in a criminal investigation.
- Being a person under police surveillance.
- Contact with police due to event involving a mental health issue or need.
Details regarding any of the above noted circumstances may be disclosed, depending upon the personal background check that is completed. Obviously, a criminal record check is only going to disclose records of criminal convictions for summary and indictable offences. However, where you request a police background check or a vulnerable sector check, you may be surprised to find details regarding non-conviction records.
Police Background Check
The police background check is also referred to as a police information check. This background check is much more comprehensive and inclusive than a criminal record check. A police background check will search court records and local police agency databases for records of involvement or contact with the police. This search may also include non-conviction records of other local police agencies.
A police background check may reveal any outstanding charges against you or whether there are any outstanding warrants for you arrest. It will also indicate if you are subject to a peace bond, a probation order, or if you are currently on bail after being released from custody. A police background check will indicate whether you were found not guilty resulting from criminal charges, or if the Crown Attorney has withdrawn criminal charges against you. Even if you were found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, this too may show up on a police background check. Records of an absolute or conditional discharge will appear on this type of background check. Finally, any complaint against you received by the police or any other information regarding contact with the police may show up on a police background check.
The extent of the information that a police agency collects and retains in police databases is dependent upon the policies and procedures of each individual police agency.
Vulnerable Sector Check
A vulnerable sector check is very similar to a police background check. Any information revealed on a police background check will likely be disclosed on a vulnerable sector check. The difference between the two personal background checks is that the vulnerable sector check will also disclose any information about sexual related offences and other violent offences for which the person has received a pardon or a criminal record suspension.
I think it is safe to say that the police are going to retain any information regarding anything to do sexual related offences, even in circumstances where a complaint is made but charges are never laid. This is particularly true if there is an allegation involving a child.
Have you been asked to complete a Police Background Check or a Vulnerable Sector Check?
In most circumstances it will be a prospective employer who will be asking that you complete some type of personal background check. There are some employers that will even request that you consent to the employer arranging to complete a background check on you. It may be wise to attend your local police agency in advance and request they complete a police background check, or a vulnerable sector check if it is anticipated you will be working with children or other individuals who would fall within the category of vulnerable persons.
If you are already aware that there are details of non-conviction records that appear on a police background check or vulnerable sector check, you ought to consider very carefully whether you wish to disclose this information. Similarly, if the employer asks that you consent to them requesting the police complete a personal background check, you should read the consent form very carefully. The employer may include a term that they will retain any personal background checks for a period of time. In circumstances where the employer is subsidiary of a larger corporation or a ministry part of a larger government body, the employer may share these records which may disqualify you from other positions in that corporation or government body.
More to Come
It is alarming how much information police agencies collect and retain. The retention and disclosure of this information raises concerns regarding the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence, the security of a person, and the implications that these non-conviction records can have on individuals.
I will follow up this article with other articles which address the implications of non-conviction records and the challenges of getting some police agencies to destroy non-conviction records.
Contact me today if you want to apply to have your non-conviction record destroyed or you have a question about police background checks and non-conviction records.