From today you can get your own criminal record from the Ministry of Justice in 3 days - free, fast and online


It's been a long time coming, but the Ministry of Justice has finally moved online today for anyone wanting their own criminal record.

The bad old days of printing out and signing and then scanning paper forms, and then waiting for 20 business days or more are over.

Now you can get your own criminal record directly from the Ministry of Justice. It's fast (3 working days) and it's free.

We were keen to try out the new process, and see how it works, so here goes.

It's fast and it's free - but it's of limited use.

These are the big points. You can get your own criminal record in 3 days instead of 20, and you don't need to pay a thing.

The downside is that the result is of limited use to you, because the result is not cryptographically signed, and there is no secure way for you to share it.

It's all very well checking out your own criminal record, but instead it's often a potential employer like an Uber who wants to see your record.

Of course you can forward the result email you got from the MoJ through to the employer. But as soon as you do, the chain of trust is broken and the employer can't tell whether or not you manipulated the result on the way through.

For these reasons, we expect that security-conscious employers will not accept self-checks, and they'll keep relying on the MoJ's third party channel, which gives them a way to verify that your result has not been tampered with.

It's online - but you'll still need a printer

The old process was paper-based, and required a printer and a scanner. Printing and scanning is so last century, so how does the new MoJ process stack up?

The good news is that the new process is mainly online. You'll be data entering your name, gender, previous addresses etc into a web form. That's a lot easier than firing up your printer and scanner (if you have one). The screens are nicely designed, and it's an OK process as a candidate.

The bad news, at least for those people who live on their mobile devices, is that not all the process is online. In fact, there's a new mini-form, the "Proof of signature" form. This form has nothing on it but your signature and your name and the date. MoJ have not made this form available for filling in online - in fact, you'll need to print it out and sign it.

Still, at least you can upload the signed form using your phone's camera. Unfortunately though, this paper-based step means that the new MoJ process fails the bus test - you can't order your own criminal record on the bus on the way home. You'll need to get to a printer first.

There's no RealMe - or any login of any kind

RealMe is an initiative from the New Zealand Government which is something like a universal login with added extras, such as a way to prove your identity.

It's always been possible to use RealMe to prove your identity when ordering your criminal conviction history, so there was a lot of speculation as to whether you would need a RealMe login on the new MoJ platform.

Now we know. You don't - in fact the new system has no login mechanism of any kind. All you do is provide your email address. That's it. (There is a Captcha mechanism of course, intended to flush out hackers trying to drive the web page from automated scripts). 

This is a very understandable decision. Having a login mechanism means providing a support help desk, for people who have lost their passwords or just can't figure things out. And having to set up a RealMe account in order to get your record would have meant additional friction. So just not supporting login at all is certainly a way to avoid that.

The downside of not having a login appears when things go wrong. Let's say you forgot to sign your passport for example. The MoJ will bounce the check back to you, and ask you to sign it. But because there's no login mechanism, there's no way for you to get back to your old information. You'll have to not only sign your passport, you'll have to enter in again all of your details. Name, contact details, previous name, previous addresses - you must type it all in again.

All in all though, this isn't too much of a big deal. Just be careful the first time through and you'll be fine!

Gender inclusivity has arrived

Now we're getting down to the smaller points, but these are issues that matter to many people. 

In the old paper form, you had to specify your gender as male or female. There were no other choices.

MoJ haven't dived into the complexities of coming up with an acceptable list of gender choices (e.g. Male, Female, Transgender Male, Transgender Female, Gender Variant/ Non-Conforming etc.).

But at least there is now a third option for "Do not wish to state".

This is probably not an ideal solution (maybe you do want to state your gender!), and this is a tough problem for anyone to crack, but it's certainly a big step forward so congrats to MoJ here.

Well done MoJ

All in all, we'd like to congratulate MoJ on the new platform. The old approach was really showing it's age, and in today's world, who can afford to wait 20 days (business days!) for a result, only to be told to go to the back of the queue again because you had failed to sign your passport.

The new process is fast, (mostly) online and has no obvious security holes. That's a great step forward.

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