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Spent Convictions in Western Australia

Written by James Stevens

Founder and CEO of the GTC Legal Group.

A spent conviction is the same as having no conviction recorded. This means the disclosure requirements for that conviction will be limited. National Police Certificates won’t list any spent convictions so will not interfere with any applications for visas and some employment searches. Therefore when someone asks “have you previously been convicted of an offence” you can answer “No”. It is important to note, though, that certain government departments, the police and the courts will have access to information relating to your spent conviction if they have an exemption under the Spent Convictions Act 1988.

How do you apply for a spent conviction?

The most common and the easiest way to obtain a spent conviction is to ask the Magistrate or Judge at the time of sentencing.  To ensure you are successful it is important that you provide adequate reasons for the court to make this declaration. Another option is, when you are requesting a National Police Certificate ,you can request that the WA Police spend any eligible convictions that occurred in Western Australia.  You can also fill out a separate spent convictions application form to have any of your offences assessed.  These applications are normally assessed in 15 working days.

Which convictions can be spent?

A Magistrate or Judge can record a spent conviction for any criminal or traffic matter if they deem the circumstances warrant such action.

The WA police can only spend a lesser conviction that is heard in the WA court. A lesser conviction is a fine of $15,000 or less, or a term of imprisonment that has not exceeded 12 months. The offence must also have occurred more than 10 years ago, with no other new offences in the last 10 years or no new ones which have incurred a fine greater than $500.

Other convictions known as serious convictions can only be spent by a Judge in the District Court. A serious conviction is one in which the fine was greater than $15,000, or the term of imprisonment was longer than 12 months.

Convictions for offences for which the penalty was life imprisonment cannot be spent.

What does having a spent conviction mean?

If the courts declared your conviction spent, or if the police have declared a previous conviction spent for the purpose of your National Police Certificate, then you no longer have to disclose any details about that offence. This means that if you are applying for a job or a visa and you are asked to list any criminal or traffic convictions, you do not have to include the ones that have been spent. This also applies to any requirement in another Act or statutory instrument that may refer to a conviction.

This may also apply to any character references that may be submitted for a particular offence. For example stealing is a crime of dishonesty, but if you have a spent conviction for stealing you will not have to disclose this, and therefore the character inferences cannot be made.

What are the Exemptions for disclosing a spent conviction?

There are occasions when you do need to disclose a spent conviction – when particular persons or bodies are exempted from the spent conviction regime. The obvious two are the police and the courts. However, some government departments are also exempt, and therefore, if you are applying for a job with one of these exempt agencies, you will need to disclose any spent convictions.

These include working for the police, in a prison, for a casino, with corrective services, or working with children. You will also have to disclose spent convictions if applying for a firearms licence.

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