Never Rely on a Criminal Record

Never Rely on a Criminal Record

criminal records check

Never rely solely on a criminal records check

There is a lot of weight placed on a criminal record check that can be misleading, incomplete and leave a person or organization with a false sense of security. Important as it may seem, it is simply one tool, which will likely have limited value on its own. A criminal record was never designed to be a “suitability” test for employers, investors or anyone else that may have a relationship where there is risk involved.

The most dangerous and sophisticated suspects that we pursued in large conspiracy cases did not have criminals record at all. In some cases they did; however, their records were minimal and irrelevant to the activity they were currently pursuing.

I am no longer surprised when witnessing daily examples of embarrassing or tragic events, brought on by the actions of others, whose behavior threatens the reputation and safety of individuals and corporations. A criminal record on its own would likely not have changed the end result.

Being a jerk, slimy or untrustworthy is not criminal

Distasteful, illicit or unethical behavior does not necessarily constitute a crime

The reality of getting a criminal conviction is that it requires a lot of things to go right before you get there. The criminal code contains a list of crimes that require the “elements of the offense” to be proven. Distasteful, illicit or unethical behavior does not necessarily constitute a crime; so, being a jerk, unreliable, untrustworthy, or slimy (and a variety of other descriptor that I won’t mention) is not criminal.

Not reported/investigated crime: no criminal record

To get a criminal record, a crime needs to occur and be reported

To get a criminal record, a crime needs to occur and be reported. Crimes occur all the time, but getting them investigated is another matter. The police no longer have the capacity and time to fully and properly investigate most crimes, so many crimes go largely undetected.

As mentioned in my article Are Crime Rates Really Falling?, criminals don’t rob banks much anymore, and other than for insurance purposes, many people simply don’t bother reporting crime. The Ghomeshi affair and the reluctance of women to formally complain supports this view along with the unpredictable pressures that social media has on the victims.

Victim embarrassment, re-victimization and reputation damage

Victims of crime may be wary of being caught in the slow turning but sometimes sharp teeth of its gears.

The revictimization, embarrassment and reputation damage to a victim of crime (personal or corporate) can be more destructive than any other aspect of the crime itself. This is a major cause of crimes going unreported, resulting in the continued existence of perpetrators—blithely walking around in our world—with no criminal record evincing their bad nature.  The often negative perception of the justice system, and criticism regarding the treatment of victims, delays and bureaucracy, also reduce incidents of reporting; victims of crime may be wary of being caught in the slow turning but sometimes sharp teeth of its gears.

The cost and time involved in policing, investigating and prosecuting crime is rising. As the judicial process places more demands on investigative and legal process, governments across the country are looking at ways to reduce service demands, further reducing reported crime.

Shift in crime trends

The face and trend of criminal activity is changing far more rapidly than governments and judicial systems can respond to. Cybercrime is dominating the world scene as the biggest global criminal threat…likely to take over from drug trafficking. Unfortunately, though governments and security authorities recognize the threat, they have a long way to go before identifying and convicting these criminals.

It’s tough to get a conviction so charges may never be laid

In the Province of British Columbia, a criminal code charge is laid on the basis of a “substantial likelihood of conviction.”  Essentially, this means the evidence of the case must be compelling before a charge will be considered. Many criminal cases that police forward to Crown counsel are rejected for this reason and never get in front of a judge.  A variety of procedural complications, evidence, disclosure, witness problems, delays and legal challenges are just some of the issues that can derail a case.

A conviction may take years

Private background screening companies can check for convictions only (with consent) but this screening doesn’t include a complete, comprehensive check of all available police and court databases.  It is important to note that not all convictions will show up on someone’s criminal record and there are very lengthy delays in updating the system. It can be as long as 36 months for convictions to be entered onto a criminal record.

Though police have substantially more information on a person, you won’t see it. Even with a conviction, a court can enter a conditional discharge or other like orders resulting in no registered criminal conviction.

Criminal record: the De facto background check…NOT!

The public’s lack of knowledge about what a criminal record check reveals, has made an industry of the process

The public’s lack of knowledge about what a criminal record check reveals, has made an industry of the process. Getting a criminal record check is relatively easy and cheap (the cost of a can of paint). Unfortunately, this screening—which may unearth nothing, or at least nothing relevant—has erroneously become the “De facto” standard. It’s a case of convenience trumping accuracy, involving no investigative process, assessment or relevant results that reveal the true nature of the investigative subject.

Most people do not want to spend a lot of money on a proper background investigation and elect to do a simple “background check”, which in the end may only provide a person with a false sense of security.

Fathom Research Group investigative probe

Doing business with someone who has no criminal record, but whose behavior is unsavory can have as much impact on your operations or reputation

At Fathom Research Group, we recognize that comprehensive background checks can be costly; so, for those who wish to balance cost and risk, we have developed the “Investigative Probe”—a search of between 50 and 100 data bases—geared toward identifying red flags. This comprehensive, yet affordable investigation will provide an executive summary of any potential risk to a person or company.

There is a vast amount of information available that can provide a complete and accurate assessment of an individual or company. The jeopardy one faces when hiring or doing business with a person who has a criminal conviction can be significant. Doing business with someone who has no criminal record, but whose behavior is unsavory or befitting of your company’s standards, can have as much or more impact on your operations and reputation.

For more information about comprehensive investigation or other corporate screening or personal background checks, contact Fathom at 1-800-217-0097 or email us.

About the Author

Pat Fogarty is a former organized crime investigator now leading Internet research and investigations at Fathom Research Group. Read more about Pat.