The Law for Spent Convictions in New South Wales, Australia

The Law for Spent Convictions in New South Wales, Australia 2

Daniel Radcliffe* – Everyone deserves a second chance, including those who made some mistakes and got in trouble with the law. This idea is enshrined in Australian law under the name of the Spent Convictions Scheme. However, the scheme applies differently in the various Australian states and territories and you need to be aware of this fact to avoid future unpleasant situations. 

Here’s what the law for spent convictions says in New South Wales:

What does the Spent Convictions Law say in New South Wales (NSW)

In New South Wales, the spent convictions scheme is regulated under the Criminal Records Act 1991. The idea behind this law is to prevent discrimination based on prior convictions. It does not apply to all types of criminal offences. The law only covers minor offences for which a prison sentence of up to six months was imposed.

According to the law, if the ex-felon manages to complete a certain crime-free period their conviction will become spent. This means it will no longer be disclosed during a routine background check.

The Spent Convictions Scheme applies differently to adults and to those who were convicted as minors.

For adults, a 10-year crime-free period must follow before the conviction can become spent. The starting point of the crime-free period is the day the individual gets sentenced. This way, the time spent in prison becomes part of the crime-free period. This is important to know as in other Australian states the crime-free period starts only after the individual is released from prison.

For juvenile offenders, the crime-free period starts the moment the individual is sentenced in a Children’s court. The law is more lenient with juvenile defendants as they committed an offence punishable by prison at an age when they were not mature enough to understand the full consequences of their act.

During the good behavior trial period, the individual must not be convicted of any other offence.

In what circumstances do you need a background check in NSW?

The Spent Convictions scheme was devised to help ex-felons find meaningful employment after serving their prison sentence. In recent years, more and more Australian employers have started using mandatory national police checks in NSW to protect their business and their staff. 

If you have committed an offence many years before and wonder whether it has become spent, all you have to do is order a background check on yourself, just like a future employer would. 

It is convenient to use an online character check agency. This way you don’t have to go to the police station and you won’t have to waste any time. You can order an online criminal history check on your PC, tablet or mobile phone and you’ll get your record via email.

According to the law, the process through which an old conviction becomes spent is automatic, meaning you don’t have to do anything, but you cannot be sure. It’s best to have a look at your criminal record as it is today before applying for a job where a background check might be required.

Once your old conviction will become spent, you don’t have to disclose it to anyone. If your employer asks you whether you’ve been in prison before, you have the right to say “No”, and it is not considered a lie.

However, keep in mind that for certain types of jobs like the healthcare domain, teaching positions or anything having to do with children or vulnerable people, the spent convictions scheme does not apply. Such jobs require comprehensive background checks and all types of offences, no matter how minor, will be disclosed. 


Daniel Radcliffe is a criminal lawyer based in New South Wales, Australia. In his spare time, Daniel likes to share his knowledge about criminal law in Australia by researching and posting informative articles.

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