Police errors may delay plan for job checks on criminals

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Thursday 29 March 2001

Police errors may delay plan for job checks on criminals By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor

Criminal Records Bureau HM Inspector of Constabulary - Home Office Home Office

CRIMINAL records held by the police are so unreliable that a new system allowing employers to check on job applicants should not go ahead unless they are improved, MPs said yesterday. The Criminal Records Bureau, due to begin operating in July, will allow job applicants to pay 10 for a basic certificate to give to employers. "Enhanced" certificates will be available for people taking jobs with children. The basis for the information will be the Phoenix database of convictions held on the Police National Computer. But Charles Clarke, the Home Office minister, told the Commons home affairs select committee that police records were "seriously inadequate".

A recent report from the Chief Inspector of Constabulary estimated that between 15 and 65 per cent of crime records contained errors, many minor but some serious, and there was an "unacceptable level of errors, omissions and discrepancies".

An even higher error rate - 86 per cent - was found when the Metropolitan Police compared information on the computer with locally held records. The study said the mistakes could have "serious consequences", including possible compensation for those affected.

There are also long delays, in some cases of almost a year, before information from the courts is placed on the database. Bernard Herdan, chief executive of the CRB, said the errors ranged from the colour of a person's eyes "to things that are very important".

Mr Clarke told the select committee that the police system relied mainly on hand-collected data. The committee said that the opening of the CRB should be postponed if the information could not be improved and it would be better if court clerks placed the details on the computer directly rather than through the police.

The report said: "It would be unacceptable if errors on the Police National Computer let even one undesirable person through. Equally, inaccurate data should not be allowed to traduce a blameless individual. The manifest levels of Police National Computer error make us doubt whether it can support a system of criminal records certificates."

Harry Fletcher, of the probation officers' union Napo, said offenders were appearing in court on the basis of inaccurate records. They included a sex offender who had served a five-year prison term but who was not on the database, a man with an unlisted record of 32 convictions for violence, and a murderer whose crime was not included on his record.

Mr Fletcher said: "The data is so inaccurate as to render the certificates almost meaningless."

-- Carl Jenkins (somewherepress@aol.com), March 29, 2001


Carl, could you provide the country or
a link to the story?

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), March 29, 2001.

Sorry about that. Story came from UK Telegraph


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et? ac=000122257519214&rtmo=gjNglYNu&atmo=YYYYYYbp&pg=/et/01/3/29/ncrim29. html

-- Carl Jenkins (somewherepress@aol.com), March 29, 2001.

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