Criminal record checks in Victoria

A couple of weeks ago we offered a free training session to our member agencies on “The Ins and Outs of Criminal Record Checks” with presenter Denise Girvin from the Victoria Police.  Girvin, a criminal records specialist with the Victoria Police for the last seven years, gave us detailed information to help clarify our understanding of the criminal records check process and how it works within the City of Victoria in particular. 

To apply for a criminal record check, an individual wishing to volunteer who lives in the City of Victoria must go in person to the Victoria Police and fill out a form, providing identification and the last five years of their home addresses.  Currently, individuals applying for criminal record checks in order to volunteer in the Greater Victoria area do not have to pay if they are able to provide a letter of introduction from the community agency with which they wish to volunteer.

Upon receipt of the form, the criminal records specialist will research several different national and local databases in order to conduct the criminal record check, and they will return the completed record check to the individual.  The individual then in turn submits the completed record check to the agency’s coordinator of volunteers for their review.

It is important for a coordinator of volunteers at this stage to understand the nature of the four different categories detailed on the record.  In each of the four categories below, we will see on the record check that either a) no record was located, or b) a record “may or may not exist”:

  • Category 1 covers criminal convictions which have not been pardoned
  • Category 2 covers outstanding criminal charges
  • Category 3 covers records of conditional or absolute discharge which have not been removed, as well as stays of proceedings and peace bonds
  • Category 4 covers any local negative contact with the police, indicated on a case by case basis by Victoria Police (Note: other local police services may indicate this information on a criminal record check differently depending on their own policies and procedures).

Due to the nature of the work many volunteers perform in interacting with vulnerable groups, a “vulnerable sector” check is also usually carried out when proper consent by the applicant is given.  The purpose of this is to check for pardoned sexual offences which may have been committed by the person in question.

If any “may or may not exist” box is checked on an individual’s record, Girvin advises that the individual in question should follow up with the police to obtain the specific details of the criminal record.  For Categories 1 through 3 confirmation of identity can only be determined by the provision of the individual’s fingerprints to the RCMP in Ottawa.  For Category 4 a Freedom of Information request would be required to be submitted to the agency that has files on the applicant. Obtaining further information in either of these cases should be carried out by the applicant, who would then disclose the information obtained back to the coordinator of volunteers. Alternatively, the volunteer agency could obtain consent from the individual to have the files forwarded directly to the coordinator of volunteers. 

Overall, it should be noted that the Greater Victoria area is currently served by seven different police services, and the process described here is descriptive only of the procedures to obtain a criminal record check with the Victoria Police for individuals living within the City of Victoria.  If an individual wishing to volunteer lives in another police service’s region (for example, in the District of Saanich which is served by the Saanich Police) that municipality’s police service should be contacted for more details about their local policies and procedures with regard to criminal record checks.

Criminal record checks are an important part of the volunteer screening process when the volunteer position involves working with vulnerable people – for example children, the elderly, or people with disabilities – or with money or sensitive information.  However, Girvin advises that criminal record checks should be just one part of the process when screening volunteers – it should not be relied on as the only screening tool an agency employs. 

The Victoria Police regularly put on informational sessions to the public about the criminal record check process.  To find out when the next session is, contact the Victoria Police non-emergency line at (250) 995-7654.

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