Criminal history checks
Members will know that when they renew their medical registration in September each year they have to make a declaration about their criminal history. At the same time, they are authorising the Medical Board to obtain a written report on their criminal history (e.g. a CrimTrac agency report).
Different jurisdictions have different laws prescribing what constitutes a criminal offence. Members may have had their renewal delayed if they have not declared an offence that is minor but which nevertheless constitutes a criminal offence in their State.
Criminal history checks are an integral part of the assessment of a medical practitioner’s suitability to practice medicine in Australia.
A criminal history includes:
- every criminal charge made against a person for an offence;
- every conviction (including spent convictions); and
- any plea of guilty or finding of guilt by a criminal court, whether or not a conviction is recorded for the offence. Any criminal matter that goes before the courts, no matter how minor (even a challenge to a traffic infringement), is relevant to a criminal history declaration and will show up on a CrimTrac agency report.
Civil matters such as contract disputes or debt matters do not form part of your criminal history.
When you apply to renew your registration, you are only required to declare any change to your criminal history during the preceding year of registration.
If your criminal history has changed in any way over the preceding year, you must tick ‘Yes’ on the renewal form, and provide details of the offence.
When the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) processes your renewal application, a ‘Yes’ response will prompt them to obtain a report from CrimTrac to verify the details of your criminal history. AHPRA will then conduct an assessment of the information, and a decision will be made about whether the offence is relevant to your practise.
The factors the Board will consider in deciding whether a health practitioner’s criminal history is relevant to the practise of their profession are set out in the Criminal History Registration Standard, which is available on the Medical Board of Australia website.
To reconcile the variation between jurisdictions about what constitutes a criminal offence, the Medical Board recently authorised AHPRA to make direct assessments when a criminal history shows a minor offence and there is no demonstrable connection with the profession. Minor offences include (but are not limited to) low level speeding, failure to wear a seatbelt, driving while unlicensed, driving an unlicensed or unregistered vehicle, parking offences, public nuisance, trespass and fishing offences.
The risk of failing to declare your criminal history is that it will subsequently show up on a CrimTrac report during one of AHPRA’s regular audits, triggering an investigation into a false declaration.
Medical practitioners who have been found to have made false declarations will be asked to submit a written explanation to the Medical Board. The Board will then decide how to deal with the practitioner, including the relevance of the criminal history to the practice of medicine.
We remind members it is important to declare your criminal history on the registration form, no matter how minor the offence.
You will not normally incur any delays to your registration renewal, as you will continue to be registered while AHPRA makes an assessment, and you will also be protected from inadvertently making a false declaration.
Published: 30 Sep 2014