Reduced CRB regime announced

February 11, 2011 8:50 am
Details of the new Criminal Records regime will be announced today as part of the all encompassing Protection of Freedoms Bill.  Points that are likely to emerge  when it is published are:
  •  The need for checks to be drastically reduced to ‘common sense’ levels -now it will only apply to those who have the most close and regular contact with children or vulnerable adults, such as professional childcare workers or teachers.  The total number who will need to undergo background checks will halve to around 4.5million, although who this includes does not appear to have been defined judging from the  interview given by Nick Clegg his morning on BBC.  
  • Continual updating and portability will be enabled so that teachers and care home workers who do require checks will have their records constantly updated.  This is seen as a key benefit and was already planned in by CRB.
  • The content of CRBs will be reviewed  – for instance the changes will also drastically cut the use of ‘soft intelligence’ when examining a person’s history. Unproven allegations will only be placed on a person’s record if a Chief Constable believes they are true.
  • Checks that are unnecessary and which breach an employee’s privacy could be referred to the data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner, and any employer found knowingly to have requested an unlawful check could face fines running to thousands of pounds.  This will prevent the over zealous use of CRBs such as the school in Warrington that would not be allowed into the premises to see their children.
  • the Independent Safeguarding Authority will be merged with the Criminal Records Bureau.

 Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

‘We inherited a messy criminal records regime that defied common sense.Our reviews concluded that the systems were not proportionate and needed to be less bureaucratic. They will now be scaled back to sensible levels whilst at the same time protecting vulnerable people.’

In an interview on BBC breakfast criminologist Mark Williams Thomas said this was a backward step and that parents want people in contact with their children to be checked.  He highlighted the William Mayne case and showed how research into the behaviour of sex offenders illustrated how they would actively seek out the loopholes that this relaxation of regulations could create:

“Offenders are very deviant, they’re very calculated and they will seek out opportunities and they will go to where those checks don’t exist.”

Daniel Hamilton, of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, said:

‘The Freedoms Bill is a step in the right direction towards ending these over-the-top and often humiliating criminal records checks.  ‘Employers should be discouraged from using intrusive CRB checks as standard and should only request them if they are absolutely necessary.’

The Royal College of Surgeons has called for surgeons to be issued with ‘passports’ so their CRB check from one NHS organisation is valid in another. Such portability is one good change that will be enabled by the Freedom Bill.

In the past the Scout Association raised the issue of managing Jamborees and claimed they could be cancelled in Britain because of the issues of getting valid checks on thousands of foreign Scout leaders, and at present it is not clear how this issue will be handled. 

Read more:  BBC News,   The TelegraphDaily Mail,