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Criminal Charges and the Impact on Your Employment

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Discussion of Criminal ChargesWritten by Amelia Ramsay, Associate, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers

There are many jobs in our community that require employees to maintain a licence, registration or check. Nurses, security guards, teachers, migration agents, doctors, psychologists and lawyers. Additionally, if you want to own a gun for your shooting hobby or for use on a farm, you must maintain a firearms licence.

Being in contact with police can have dire consequences on your ability to hold each of these licences, registrations and checks. If you are considering making an application and you have a criminal record, it is vital that you obtain legal advice before making any submissions. If you have received a negative notice or notice of suspension, you should also obtain legal advice before responding. We have helped clients make successful applications at all stages.

This is an area of work we are passionate about; it is our strong belief that in most cases a criminal record should not prevent a person from pursuing their career of choice. Laws are in place to ensure the safety of our community through screening people who want to work in positions of care or power. It is important to ensure that these laws are applied fairly and objectively so as not to unnecessarily prevent people from working and engaging with others.

Here are some examples of licences, registrations and checks with which we are able to assist:

  • Working with Children Check
  • Firearms Licence
  • Migration Agent Licence
  • Security Licence
  • AHPRA Registration renewal or declaration

Each area of employment is governed by a different piece of legislation and uses different tests when determining whether a person should hold a licence, registration or check and we can discuss these in detail during an appointment. There are, however, some overarching principles that apply.

Support Your Application With Evidence

You may be able to say that you are an honest and reliable person, but if that claim is supported by a character reference from your employer it will carry infinitely more weight with the person assessing your application.

Equally, when addressing issues of mental health, medical history or prior offending, obtaining a report from a medical professional or psychologist is the most direct and credible way of allaying any concerns.

Draw on the resources around you to support your application. Depending on the type of application or stage of the matter, we may recommend obtaining character references, a psychological and/or medical report, an affidavit from the client, certificates of qualifications and achievements and any other material that can support your application.

Written Submissions

The game-changer for any application is comprehensive written submissions directly addressing the legislation. This is the factor we find most often undervalued by individuals applying a licence, registration or check. A heartfelt plea for understanding and mercy will only go so far. An application needs to specifically target the criteria set out in the regulating body’s legislation. If this is not done properly, the regulator does not have a basis upon which to make a positive finding. You need to help the regulator to tick the boxes on their checklist and you need to be persuasive.

Example – Notice of Proposal to Cancel Firearms Licence

We acted for a client whose firearms licence was suspended following an incident where he wrote a text message to his ex-wife implying that he was going to use his firearm to kill himself. His ex-wife became worried and called the police. The police attended our client’s premises where the firearms were confiscated and he was directed to attend hospital for a psychological assessment. The client was cleared at hospital and returned home where he was served with a Notice of Suspension of Firearms Licence.

I acted on the client’s behalf in making submissions to the Licensing and Regulation Division of Victoria Police in order to get the licence back.

To maximise our client’s chance in obtaining a successful outcome, we directed him to undergo a further and more detailed assessment with a psychologist in order to submit a positive report in support of our submissions. We also assisted the client to obtain numerous character references supporting our assertion that he is a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence as required under the legislation. This material was filed with the client’s affidavit regarding the incident and comprehensive submissions directly addressing the legislation.

We successfully persuaded the regulator to lift the suspension and the client’s licence was reinstated.

Example – Application for a Working with Children Check (WWCC)

Our client was a child aged around 10 years of age when he was charged with a criminal offence after the children next door made allegations that he touched one of them inappropriately and took naked photographs of another. Our client, with his parents, did not agree with all of the alleged conduct but agreed to resolve the matter by way of Therapeutic Treatment Order whereby he engaged in counselling sessions to encourage appropriate sexual behaviour. The resolution meant that the charges were ultimately struck out / withdrawn and our client did not have a criminal record.

Approximately 7 years later, in his employment as an apprentice tradesperson, a WWCC was required so that he could work on school premises when and if needed. As he had been advised, while he did not have a criminal record, the assessing body did have access to the Court outcome and brief of evidence. Our client received a response to his application seeking submissions in relation to the criminal charges.

We prepared comprehensive and targeted written submissions addressing not only the specific questions asked by the regulating body but also the relevant legislation, criteria for obtaining a WWCC and laws relating to criminal responsibility of minors. We included the Court orders, counselling findings and reports, legal cases and written character references in support of our submissions. We argued that our client did not pose any risk, let alone a justifiable risk to the safety of children.

Our client was successful in his application and granted a Working with Children Check.

These are two real examples of the power of persuasive submissions. The aim is to get it right on the first application in order to avoid having to appeal to a higher body to review any decision to refuse an application. More importantly, our aim is to assist clients to keep their job and to ensure they are not unnecessarily disadvantaged by a criminal record.

If you are applying for, disputing a suspension or renewing a licence, registration or check and are concerned about the impact of criminal charges call Amelia Ramsay at Doogue & George to make an appointment.

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