Call for rethink over police checks

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Published: Friday 17th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Police spend more time mass vetting the public than monitoring known sex offenders and suspects due to Government failures in scaling back criminal records checks, according to a think-tank.

Some 3.9 million people were subjected to criminal records checks last year, including 843,000 volunteers, according to the findings obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by centre-right think tank Civitas. This represents a small fall from the peak in 2010/11, but is still higher than in 2008/9.

In 2010, Home Secretary Theresa May promised criminal records checks would be halved to 1.7 million.

In an interview for the report, former Cambridgeshire chief constable Julie Spence said her force spent “far more on the team doing the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks as they were specifically funded by government, than we were actually putting into child protection”.

The report’s author, Josie Appleton, argues that time and money would be more effective if focused on known offenders and suspects rather than on the general public.

Ms Appleton said: “They (the police) spend more time and money monitoring a very large low-risk group – the general population – than the much smaller high-risk group of known or suspected offenders.

“It is notable that many of the shocking cases of child abuse in recent years – from Jimmy Savile to the Catholic church – involved individuals without criminal records: the failure was a failure to report and to investigate allegations, rather than a lack of checking.”

Civitas argues that the vetting system has become even more complicated since 2010 with 23 different types of checks and an increase in the number of people working in the service, which includes those employed by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau.

Costs of vetting the public have also grown to £211.6 million in 2013/14.

Ms Appleton calls for a review of the vetting and barring system, including a consideration of its costs and benefits.

“Given that the coalition’s reforms have not resolved the problems with the vetting system, there is a need to go back to the drawing board, and to ask if criminal records checks are the best manner in which to be spending £200 million a year,” she said.

Published: Friday 17th October 2014 by The News Editor

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