Understanding Police Record Checks in Ontario Part I: Clear Rules are a Welcome Change

The PCRCA creates clear rules for when police can disclose information about you

In November, 2018, the Police Record Checks Reform Act (“the PRCRA”) became law in Ontario.  The PRCRA created rules for the police that limit the information they can disclose about Ontarians to prospective employers, volunteer agencies, and foreign governments.

Before the PRCRA, there were no clear rules about what police agencies could divulge.  Each police agency created its own policies and exercised its own discretion.  This affected Ontarians who had never been convicted of a crime, because their “non-conviction information”, for example the mere fact they had been charged with a crime, was disclosable.

Why the new rules are important

Many of us in Ontario have careers that require regular background or vulnerable sector checks – for example, teachers, nurses, fire-fighters and social workers.  Releasing information about allegations that never resulted in a conviction, or information from dated occurrence reports or mental health contacts with the police, has negatively impacted the careers of many Ontarians.

A former client of mine, a nurse, dealt with the stress of worrying that her nursing career would be jeopardized by police disclosure of her non-conviction information.  She had called the police in the midst of a domestic dispute wherein her partner placed his hand around her throat.  She struck back at him and called the police.  When the police arrived and learned she had struck her partner, they charged her with assault.

I assisted her with getting the assault charge withdrawn.  However, because she was a nurse and subject to regular vulnerable sector checks, she wanted the associated records and non-conviction information destroyed.  Without a law like the PRCRA, her information was subject to being disclosed if the police agency which laid the charge exercised its discretion to do so.

My client applied for destruction of the records and non-conviction information associated with the withdrawn assault charge.  Yet the police agency refused her request because of its policy to not destroy materials related to “secondary designated offences” – such as assault.

I assisted my client with successfully appealing this decision.  However, it took almost two-and-a-half years for her to receive confirmation that the records were destroyed. 

Because there was no law like the PRCRA to prevent the Toronto Police from disclosing the withdrawn charge, obtaining confirmation that the records would be destroyed was the only way for her to obtain peace of mind that her career would no longer be at risk.

The PRCRA is a welcome change.  Police record check providers are now prevented from disclosing non-conviction information except in accordance with a clearly delineated schedule.  Police record check providers will only be permitted to disclose non-conviction information when it relates to specified offences, and the alleged victim is a child or vulnerable person, and the police record check provider has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has engaged in a “pattern of predation”. 

An important exception: school employees and volunteers

In Part II of this post, I explain how the rules preventing police record check providers from disclosing non-conviction information do not apply to school employees and volunteers.

Getting your records destroyed

Contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer, if you need assistance with destroying your records, including assistance with:

  • Submitting a request for the destruction of your non-conviction information
  • Submitting a reconsideration request because your non-conviction information was deemed to have met the criteria for “exceptional  disclosure”
  • Submitting a request for the destruction of your photographs, fingerprints, records of disposition, and/or expired Peace Bonds

Mindy Caterina, BA, JD – Toronto Professional Discipline & Criminal Defence Lawyer