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A man applied for a job that required him to agree to vetting by Police. The man authorised Police to release information about him to his potential employer.

The man complained to us that even though he had no criminal convictions, Police had marked his application with a red stamped warning that he should not be left unsupervised with vulnerable members of the community.

Police vetting applications

Police say the aim of the vetting process is to protect more vulnerable members of society (children, older people and those with special needs) from any risks posed by people who may have behaved in ways detrimental to others' safety and wellbeing.

The Police vetting process searches the Police database for any information held about the person being vetted. Criminal conviction information is released in accordance with the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004.

Where vetting indicates behaviour of a violent or sexual nature (that is not shown on an individual's criminal record), Police may recommend that an individual does not have unsupervised access to children, young people, or more vulnerable members of society. This is indicated by a large red stamp on the application.

If an individual is "red stamped" they can ask Police for the basis of that decision.

The man who complained to us did not have any criminal convictions, but had been acquitted on serious violence-related charges at two separate trials.

Police returned the man's application to his potential employer with a red stamp and an indication that Police did not recommend that the man had unsupervised access to children, young people or vulnerable members of society.

The man thought that Police were using inaccurate or misleading information about him by red stamping his application when he had been acquitted of charges against him at trial.

Principle 8 - accuracy

We considered the man's complaint under principle 8 of the Privacy Act, which provides that an agency must take reasonable steps before it uses information to ensure that it is accurate, up to date, complete, relevant and not misleading.

We reviewed the steps that Police had taken to ensure they had complete and not misleading information before undertaking the vetting process. This included Police reviewing the man's full file and notes in its computer system.

Police considered that after reviewing the files relating to the two separate alleged offences, a pattern of strikingly similar behaviour was evident to a degree that warranted their recommendation.

We formed the view that Police had taken reasonable steps to check the man's information before using it and the complaint did not raise issues under principle 8.

We considered that what the man was really complaining about was that Police's decision to red stamp him was not reasonable given that he had been acquitted of previous charges.

Whether an opinion is justified is not something we can consider under principle 8.

We explained to the man that as part of the Police vetting process he had agreed to Police reviewing all information they held about him and providing their view on it to his potential employer.

Where Police vetting indicates behaviour of a violent or sexual nature, even if this is not shown on an individual's criminal record, Police may still form the opinion that the individual should not have unsupervised access to children, young people or vulnerable members of society.

Under principle 8, we may only look at the use of the information and its accuracy. We are not able to examine the reasons for arriving at an opinion based on that information.

We considered that the man's complaint did not raise issues under principle 8 and that Police had not breached principle 8 or interfered with his privacy.

June 2012

Accuracy of information - Police vetting - employment - opinion material - Privacy Act 1993; principle 8