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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

National Police Checks


A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check, previously known as a National Police Check, is often required when applying for employment, Australian citizenship, appointment to positions of trust and for certain licences and registration. More than 5 million checks are conducted each year. Applications are made through state or territory police and conducted by the National Police Checking Service. The service is administered under the National Crime Commission Act 2002.

A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check is commonly used to check a person’s suitability for employment, volunteering, working with children or vulnerable people, immigration, citizenship, adoption, occupational licensing and firearms licensing.

How are checks conducted?

An application is submitted to state or territory police, or the Australian Federal Police, or an entity accredited by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. A check can be conducted only if the applicant consents.

Applications can be made online in some situations, such as when a person:

  • seeks employment with Commonwealth Government;
  • requires a police check under Commonwealth legislation;
  • lives overseas;
  • seeks employment overseas;
  • seeks an overseas adoption;
  • seeks immigration clearance.

The applicant’s identity is verified then their details are provided to the National Police Checking Service, where they are checked against a national database using a name-matching algorithm. Any potential matches are referred to police to assess. If police confirm there is no match, a result is provided to the police or accredited entity. If police confirm there is a match, a referral is generated for police to begin a vetting process. Police agencies determine what information can be released for the purpose of the check, including any relevant spent convictions.

The National Police Checking Service aims to process 95 per cent of applications within 10 days. However, the process can be delayed for reasons including that:

  • the applicant has a common name or a name that matches many potential Persons of Interest on policing systems;
  • the application deals with old police information which requires the manual collection and processing of hard copy documents;
  • a police agency has inaccurate or incomplete records which need to be verified;
  • information needs to be transferred between state and territory police forces for verification;
  • workloads vary between police agencies.

A person who provides false or misleading information, or omits to provide information that results in the application being false or misleading, commits an offence under the Criminal Code Act 1991 and faces a penalty of 6 months or more in prison.

Check results

A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check will produce one of two results: the applicant will have No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCO) or they will have Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO).

NDCO means there is no police information held against the applicant or there is no police information that can legally be released. DCO means there is police information that can be released, which could include charges; convictions and penalties; findings of guilt with no conviction; court appearances; court orders; matters before a court; warrants and/or warnings; and traffic offences.

If the application was submitted to police, a National Police Certificate is issued. If the application was submitted to an accredited entity, a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check Results Report is issued. The entity must provide the applicant with the report if there is a disclosable court outcome and if the applicant requests it.

If a person believes the court outcomes on a National Police Certificate are incorrect or inaccurate, they can lodge a Disputed Record form.

If a person believes their information has been released improperly or incorrectly in an application, they can apply to the Australian Information Commissioner for an investigation.

A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check result cannot be reused, because the purpose identified on the application determines what police information may be released, and because the result is valid for that point in time only.

National Police Certificates

A hard copy National Police Certificate is printed on secure paper which has security features including:

  • a watermark;
  • fluorescent tricolour threads that glow under ultra-violet light;
  • a micro-type border that can be read under magnification;
  • images printed in heat-sensitive ink that fade or disappear momentarily when heat is applied;
  • hidden images printed in fluorescent ink that glow under ultra-violet light;
  • a screened background printed in solvent-reactive ink.

Fingerprint checks

In some cases, the law requires fingerprint checks as part of a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check. An applicant must supply a full set of fingerprints taken by police. Those fingerprints are checked against a central database.

Company checks

A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check can be made on a company if the company consents. The law requires a company check in some circumstances in sectors such as aged care and security. Police supply a certificate detailing any convictions and/or charges pending for the company.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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