What Causes Police Checks To Get Delayed?

police check delay
Police Check Delayed

Is your Police checks delayed?

Police checks are common practice for many industries across Australia, with thousands of citizens applying for national police clearance every year.

The National Police Checking Service will always endeavour to complete and return a police check application as soon as possible, but in some cases the process is delayed. There are multiple reasons as to why this may be. Here is everything you need to know about delayed police checks in Australia.

What Is The Process For A Police Check?

The process for a police check is quite simple. In this case, a police check refers to a National Criminal History Check, which is also called a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

The applicant can apply manually, or complete a police check online with a registered provider such as Worker Checks, who will handle the process for you once you submit your application.

After submitting your application, the process is as follows:

  • Your application will be reviewed for accuracy and consistency with the information you have provided, as well as identity documents provided
  • If all is well, you are required to give your consent to have your information passed on to the National Police Checking Service, who will search the national database for matches to Persons of Interest
  • If your information matches with an existing Persons of Interest record, the Police History Information records will be searched next. This step clarifies which information, if any, will be disclosed in your police check.
  • The results of the police check are returned to the NPC provider handling your application and they will be made accessible to you in a document called a national criminal history check

Where Does My Information Go?

The information provided on your application for a police check online is first assessed by the accredited NPC provider you have chosen to use, such as Worker Checks. Once the provider is satisfied with the information received, it is given to the National Police Checking Service for further review. This service is used by police agencies across all states and territories of Australia.

How Long Does A Police Check Take?

Different providers of police checks have different timeframes for results. Generally, the process is completed within 1 hour. This applies to most applicants with a 70% success rate. The remaining 30% are delayed for various reasons, most commonly for further review. A delay could mean waiting up to 15 business days for the results of your criminal record check to be returned.

For this reason, you should complete an online police check as soon as possible should you require one.

Why Is My Check Taking So Long?

Police checks are performed by computer systems which run your name and details through police databases in search of a match. This generates an automatic pairing with police history records. This can be a speedy process for many applications, but for others it can be more complex. If the computer is unable to generate a result with certainty, your application may require manual processing.

Manual processing is when your application must be checked and assessed manually, by police authorities. This can be a timely process, and will add more time onto the process.

If a match is found on the database, or your name and details match another person of interest, it will be flagged for further review. A true match must be confirmed, and the computer system is not always able to confirm this conclusively, so people are needed to investigate the matter by hand.

Reasons A Police Check Is Delayed

There are multiple reasons for why your Police Check is delayed and takes longer than the average 1 hour. Around 30% of police check applications are sent for further review by the National Police Checking System.

Common reasons for why a police check result might take longer than expected are the following.

Common Names

If the applicant has a name which is relatively common in Australia, it is possible for it to flag matches to information in criminal records belonging to other individuals with the same name. This takes the system more time to establish if you are the person in question, or if you must be excluded from being a person of interest.

Old Information

The information on police record systems should be regularly updated. However, outdated information may still exist on police records. If the applicant’s data has not been updated effectively, this may require the applicant’s information to be gathered and assessed manually by police authorities.

Issues With Police Records

Any problems with the information held on police records can cause delays to your results. If information on the system is found to be incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete, it will have to be fully investigated before the results of a police check can be established.

Transfer Delays

The National Police Checking System works by giving police agencies and ACIC accredited providers across all states and territories in Australia access to criminal history records. In order for this to work successfully, information must be transferred and shared between different states and territories. For various reasons, some agencies may take longer to pass on information, and this will result in delays to your application.


Sometimes, there are unprecedented levels of police check applications being submitted in Australia. As with every application, it must be managed correctly and meet all requirements as set out by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. Police check applications must not be rushed, and this means that a heavy workload for individual police agencies can cause delays to police checks as they work through applications.

Will A Criminal Record Cause Delays?

If you already expect that your national police clearance will contain details of your criminal record, there are some reasons why the results might be delayed.

If you are wondering about a delay with your criminal record, the following are possible causes:

  • Legal technicalities and different legislation, including spent convictions schemes in different police jurisdictions
  • The state or territory where the offence took place
  • The decision process which determines whether a previous conviction or charge is disclosed as part of the results of a police check. This is dependent on the purpose behind the police check, the relevancy of the information and the assessment of the role the applicant is applying for (if for pre-employment screening purposes)

What If I Don’t Have A Criminal Record?

Many people assume that if they have no criminal record, their police check request will be returned quickly. However, it is still possible that your application will be delayed. Some factors to be considered are as follows:

  • Similarity to police records belonging to other individuals, such as a common name or other similar personal details
  • The time and location of an offence committed in the police records of an individual with similar data to yourself
  • Time spent verifying your information and residential address history

Can I Prevent A Delay?

Anybody who applies for a National Police Check cannot control the process once the application is submitted. The important rules to follow as a preventative measure are to complete the application correctly.

For a successful application, you must provide everything asked of you in terms of personal information and identity documentation. Check all dates to make sure documents are valid, and double check that you have entered all information correctly.

Generally, problems with the application itself can be resolved by the applicant if they read and follow the steps carefully. All applicants should consider spellings, typing errors, spacing format and consistency to enable a smooth process.

Will Another Provider Be Faster?

If you find that you are waiting a long time for the results of police clearance, there is little you can do to speed up the process. Once your application is submitted with the NPC provider, the process is handled by the system, and there is nothing that can be done to retrieve the results any faster.

All accredited bodies who submit police checks on behalf of applicants have equal access to the National Police Checking Service. All must follow the same rules and procedures put in place by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. For this reason, you should not attempt to submit applications to different providers, as this will not result in a faster turnaround. It could slow down the process, as multiple providers will be searching for the same results.

Police checks are certified documents which must be performed following strict protocol. A police check result will only be released once the police agencies are completely satisfied and confident that the applicant has been assessed fully.

Will I Be Notified Of An Issue With My Police Check?

If there are any issues with the application submitted, the accredited body handling the application will contact you directly, either via phone, email or both. A discussion will be held to inform you of the issues, and to determine the best course of action for moving forward with the criminal record check. This could include providing alternative documents or further personal information to help to verify your identity.

If the police check request has been sent for manual processing, the applicant will be informed and updated throughout the procedure where possible.

What Will The Result Be?

In every police check document, there can only be one of two results – No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCO) or Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO).

Disclosable Court Outcomes can include charges, convictions, court appearances and findings of guilt with no conviction. The information disclosed is based on spent convictions legislation and release of information policies in different states and territories.

No Disclosable Court Outcomes means one of two things. Either there is no police history information linked to the applicant, or there is some information on their record which does not need to be disclosed.

Will Disputing My Results Cause More Delays?

Every applicant has the right to dispute the results of their national police clearance if they believe the information to be false, inaccurate or irrelevant.

Depending on what the dispute is, further delays may take place as the issue is resolved. To begin the dispute process, the applicant should contact the relevant accredited body immediately to discuss any concerns. They will then raise the dispute on your behalf as they liaise with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Each case is unique, and the amount of time required to resolve a dispute is undetermined. Doubts or concerns should be communicated as soon as possible.

A delayed police check is in no way an indicator that an applicant has any criminal history to be disclosed.

In response to Australia’s COIVD-19 recovery, the National Police Check Service is currently experiencing an unprecedented demand for police checks.

Police are working to capacity to process checks but delays are being experienced.

Checks normally take up to 10 business days to complete. Currently, applicants are experiencing delays upwards of 1-month to complete.

Government Accredited

Worker Checks Pty Ltd is an Accredited Body with the Australian Criminal Intelligence  Commission (ACIC).
Authorised to access the National Police Checking  Service.
Worker Checks Pty Ltd  have been assessed and approved against  strict security and compliance requirements.

A list of ACIC Accredited providers can be found at: https://www.acic.gov.au/services/national-policechecking-service/find-out-more-information/accredited-bodies

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