One of the biggest concerns for our clients is whether or not a conviction will be recorded on their criminal or traffic history. If a conviction is recorded it can have devastating consequences for your employment, travelling plans, rental, insurance and visas applications as well as other permits.
The Law: Section 12, Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 – A court may exercise a discretion to record or not record a conviction.
This means that it is up to the Magistrate or Judge whether or not they record a conviction against you. There are some offences that are considered minor that do not attract the recording of a conviction but for the majority of offences it is a real concern.
The starting point for a Magistrate or Judge is to record a conviction unless specific arguments are made to convince the Magistrate or Judge not to record the conviction. It is not just a matter of saying please do not record a conviction against me, the arguments made in court must address the following:
- Nature of the offence;
- The offender’s character and age;
- The impact the recording of a conviction will have on the offender’s economic or social well-being or chances of finding employment.
In addressing the above arguments it is extremely important that sufficient detail is expressed and supporting documentation may need to be provided to prove that the recording of a conviction will in fact pose potential problems for the offender’s current or future plans. It is not acceptable to simply say that the recording of a conviction may impact your life it needs to be substantiated.
Many industries require you to disclose whether or not you have any convictions and this can prevent you from being employed or could cause you to lose your current job. For lawyers, we are required to disclose convictions to the Queensland Law Society which can lead to the loss of our job and ability to practice law. For people working in construction, hospitality, education, healthcare, manufacturing, mining, real estate, finance, banking, IT, these are all industries where employers ask for background checks.
There are countries that will refuse your entry if you have been convicted of particular offences. For example, Canada may or may not allow people with driving under the influence of alcohol convictions to enter the country.
In Queensland, finding a place to rent is incredibly difficult due to a shortage of properties. Landlords are particularly concerned with a person’s character before approving their rental application. It is common practise for a landlord to conduct background checks to find out if the applicant has any convictions. Obviously, those with a criminal record will find it very difficult to have their rental application approved.
There are offences such as fraud, theft, arson, malicious damage and other dishonesty offences that can prevent you from obtaining insurance. You may even find that you are unable to be insured due to a drink driving conviction.
Those applying for a VISA are asked to disclose any criminal history and more specifically whether or not a conviction was recorded. This is relevant to passing the character test and can determine whether or not a VISA is approved.
If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic offence you should seek immediate legal advice as criminal and traffic convictions may have immediate consequences or could come back to bite you later in life.