On April 15, 2014, the Office of the Information and Privacy
Commissioner for British Columbia (the "Privacy
Commissioner") issued a report regarding the use of police
information checks in British Columbia (the
The main focus of the Report is the scope of information
provided in police information checks. Currently police information
checks include information about prior convictions, outstanding
charges, and non-conviction information such as adverse police
contact, investigations that did not result in charges and
apprehensions under the Mental Health Act. Police agencies no
longer provide criminal record checks which are restricted to
information on prior criminal convictions.
The Privacy Commissioner's recommendations include that
government and police boards should cease providing mental health
information in all circumstances and should only provide
non-conviction information for positions working in the vulnerable
sector, i.e. with children and at vulnerable adults.
At this stage these are only recommendations. However, it is
likely that police agencies will be more cautious with the
information they disclose in police information checks. The
Attorney General has also stated that she will consider whether
legislation should be enacted limiting the scope of information
disclosed in police information checks as recommended by the
From an employer's perspective, a key aspect of the Report
is the Privacy Commissioner's discussion regarding collecting
personal information via police information checks. Even if an
individual consents to an employer or prospective employer
collecting their personal information via police information
checks, the collection still needs to be "reasonable" for
private sector employers and "necessary" for public
sector employers. The Privacy Commissioner noted that whether the
collection is reasonable or necessary is a contextual analysis that
will depend on the specific position the police information check
is requested for and the scope of information provided.
Employers should exercise caution when requiring police
information checks. Police information checks should only be
required where they are necessary for the position. Such caution is
warranted given the broad scope of information currently disclosed
by police agencies and the fact that we anticipate the Privacy
Commissioner will be taking a keen interest in privacy complaints
involving police information checks going forward.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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