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Criminal records

Criminal records

What is a criminal record?

The term "criminal record" generally refers to a formal record of offences committed by an individual which have been dealt with in court and resulted in a conviction. It will include offences that resulted in a conviction even if the person was not present in court. Offences that go to court but are dismissed will not result in a conviction and therefore will not appear in a criminal record.

Each state or territory keeps its own record of offences committed within its borders, so if you have been convicted of offences in more than one state or territory, you will have more than one record. A National Police Certificate draws information from the records of all states and territories to provide a single record of your convictions. See below for more information about this Certificate.

A criminal record may or may not include traffic convictions. Where a criminal record does not include traffic convictions, there will be a separate record of such convictions.

Some less serious offences are not dealt with in court and instead are dealt with by issuing an infringement notice. Infringements are generally not included in your criminal record and there will be a separate record of such offences.

Who is responsible for keeping and releasing my criminal record?

In each state or territory, the police are responsible for keeping your criminal record. They are also responsible for releasing it in accordance with the law of that state or territory.

Generally, police will not release information about your criminal record to anyone without your consent, however, there are exceptions to this. Police may share criminal record information with other police forces and with administrators of justice, such as courts.

Why might my criminal record be released?

A copy of your record will be available to police as part of their function in preventing and investigating criminal offences. 

A copy of your criminal record will be made available to a court to enable it to perform its functions. This may involve checking your record before deciding questions such as suitability for bail or the appropriate penalty for an offence. 

You may need a copy of your record for your own purposes, including to apply for a job, work as a volunteer, work with children, make an insurance application, or apply for an overseas visa.    

What information is included in my WA criminal record?

Your WA criminal record includes a basic description of the offence for which you have been convicted, the date when it was dealt with in court and the penalty you received, for example, a $400 fine. 

A criminal record that is produced for a criminal court, will usually be a combined record that shows all your criminal and traffic offences, whether "spent" or not. 

A criminal record produced for employment or other similar purpose will only include disclosable offences, that is, it will not include offences that have been "spent". 

What offences might not be in my WA criminal record?

Offences dealt with by an infringement notice rather than through court will not be included in your criminal record. This may include driving infringements or infringements for breaches of local government regulations. Instead they will be included in a record of infringements.

A criminal record that is not to be used by a court, will not include reference to any convictions that have been "spent".

What is a "spent" conviction?

A "spent" conviction is a conviction that does not need to be disclosed in certain circumstances, such as when applying for some kinds of employment. As a result, a spent conviction will not appear in a National Police Certificate as it is not classed a "disclosable" offence. 

However, it is important to note that spent convictions do have to be disclosed in some situations, including for certain types of employment and will form part of your record when it is being considered by a court

For more information about when you must disclose a spent conviction or when a spent conviction may be taken into account, see What spent conviction orders do on this website and Spent Conviction Applications on the WA police website. 

A spent conviction can be obtained either:

How long do offences stay on my record?

Offences will remain on your record unless they are "spent". However, even if you have a conviction or convictions that are spent, these and any other convictions will show up when your record is being considered by the police or a court.

A court may take all offences, including those that are spent, into account when dealing with you in court. There is an exception to this. A court cannot take into account traffic convictions which are more than 20 years old, when considering the penalty for any subsequent offence, even though such convictions will show up on your record. 

What is a National Police Certificate and how do I get one?

A National Police Certificate includes details of your WA criminal and traffic convictions as well as convictions from other Australian states and territories. It also includes details of pending charges, that is, charges that are before the court but have not yet been resolved. 

The certificate does not include offences for which a spent conviction order was made and does not include details of any pending traffic charges or any WA infringements you have received. 

In order to obtain a National Police Certificate you must pay a fee and complete an application form through any Australia Post outlet or online through the WA police website - go to National Police Certificate - how to apply. The current cost for applying is noted on the WA police website under Information access fees. You are required to prove your identity before your application can be processed. 

For more information, see Frequently asked questions on the WA Police website. 

Can I get a copy of my WA criminal record for court?

If you are facing criminal charges in WA, you or your lawyer will usually be able to obtain a copy of your WA record from the prosecution free of charge. The copy they provide will be the copy they intend to provide to the court so it will include all criminal and perhaps also traffic convictions. The prosecution are not obliged to provide a copy, however, they will generally do so on the understanding that you need it in order to get legal advice or prepare for your court appearance. You will be required to prove your identity before it is released to you.

If your record is to be taken into account by a criminal court, you should be given a chance to check it for accuracy before the court relies on it.

How can I obtain a copy of my WA traffic convictions record?

All WA traffic convictions from court are included in the National Police Certificate. You should therefore apply for a National Police Certificate if you need a record of your traffic convictions.  

How can I obtain a copy of my WA traffic infringements history?

If you need to know about your traffic infringements, go to Record of Traffic Infringement Notices under Apply for Information on the WA Police website. This will give you access to traffic infringements recorded against you in the past 5 years.

What if I am living interstate and I want a copy of my criminal record?

If you are living interstate, you must apply to the police in your state or territory if you want a copy of your criminal record from just that place. Alternatively, you may apply for a National Police Certificate which will show your convictions from all states and territories. If you are living interstate and you want a copy of your WA criminal record, you should apply for a National Police Certificate. 

What if I am living overseas and I want a copy of my criminal record?

If you are living overseas, you must apply to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for a National Police Certificate. Contact them at AFP Criminal Records, Locked Bag 8550, Canberra City, ACT, 2601 or on (02) 6140 6502. Also see Criminal Records - National Police Checks on the AFP website.

What if I am applying for a visa to travel overseas?

If you need a copy of your criminal record as part of a visa application, you must apply to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for a National Police Certificate. Contact them at AFP Criminal Records, Locked Bag 8550, Canberra City, ACT, 2601 or on (02) 6140 6502. Also see Criminal Records - National Police Checks on the AFP website. 

What information is considered in a Working with Children Check?

If you have applied to work with children, a thorough criminal record check is made in order to process your application. For more information see the Working With Children Check (WA) website.

What if I think I have been discriminated against because of my criminal record?

There is useful information about discrimination in employment based on criminal records on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.


Last reviewed: 28/11/2017

Last modified: 7/02/2018 4:35 PM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.