Police record checks are becoming a requirement for more and more jobs and volunteer positions. If you have never been convicted of a criminal offence, you may assume that you have nothing to worry about. This may not be the case.
Each time someone has an interaction with the police, there may be a report made. This is the case whether or not this contact leads to charges and ultimately a conviction. For example, if Stan calls the police to report that Joe committed a crime, and if the police investigate and decide that no crime was committed, there will still be a record that Joe was accused of committing a crime.
In a straight criminal records check, this should not be an issue. Joe was never charged with anything and certainly was never convicted. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the end of the story. In deeper background checks such as vulnerable sector checks, the report that Joe was accused of committing a crime will still show up. This may be enough to interfere with future job prospects for Joe.
Deeper background checks can show every interaction that a person has had with the police where they gave police their name. This can include things like calling 911 to report something, being present when police responded to a 911 call, being a victim of a crime, being a witness to a crime, and being a suspect whether you were charged or not.
Right now, there is no regulation of what gets released in a background check. Most police services have their own procedures in place about what they will release. Still, the decision is up to individual police forces and some are not as careful as others in terms of releasing only what is relevant.
While it may make sense to check for criminal convictions when looking for employees or volunteers, the lack of regulation of what goes into a background check can mean that a totally innocent person can end up losing out on employment just because their name was mentioned in a police report. Although we are supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, an allegation that never led to charges can seriously impact someone’s future.
Kristen Morris is an associate at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice. For more articles, visit the Library page at www.cobbjones.ca.