Unsafe Disclosures by CRB/DBSÂ
For many years Police performance measures included detection targets. In much the same way that the Public Administration Select Committee on Crime Statistics (November 2013) revealed how recorded crime figures had been influenced and manipulated to meet crime reduction targets, the desire to meet detection targets resulted in a large number of unsafe detections being recorded against members of the public. Some reviews of detections have revealed that in excess of 80% of those examined were unsafe.
This blog describes the serious risks in relation to the provenance of this sensitive personal data others rely upon to make decisions regarding applications for jobs (or voluntary work) involving children or vulnerable adults and/or the decision to allow you to adopt a child or even travel abroad in certain cases. The recent appetite for organisations to exchange and sell personal information and thereafter use â€˜big dataâ€™ as a predictive tool to support strategic decision-making amplifies the risk(s) of relying upon information that is fundamentally flawed.
Despite several approaches to the Home Office, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), the Minster of State in the House of Lords responsible for Criminal Information and the Policing Minister, these issues remain unaddressed and so the potential to disadvantage individuals, the risk to public safety and the reputation of the key stakeholders remains in jeopardy.
Offences that are recorded as detected other than via a conviction at court must satisfy certain criteria to comply with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) and be considered safe. These criteria are; (1) A crime has been committed and recorded, (2) There is a sufficiency of evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction at court, (3) The suspect is made aware that the detection is being recorded against them and the implications of this, and (4) The victim is made aware that the offence has been detected.
It follows that detections may be considered to be unsafe if they fail to satisfy the criteria described above or are otherwise procedurally flawed; Evidential flaws include; a lack of a victim statement, a lack of any interview with the suspect, a lack of forensic corroboration, or a lack of any reliable admission by the suspect in cases involving Simple Cautions. Procedural flaws include; police making the decision to detect the offence in isolation without receiving the requisite authorisation and oversight by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
As a result of these unsafe detections, applicants may have been unfairly disadvantaged for jobs or posts they have applied for requiring CRB/DBS checks; they may also be unfairly disadvantaged in relation to future job applications or applications to adopt children for the same reason.
Â NB; It is important to note that the failure to comply with the necessary criteria are serious and fundamental errors relating to evidence and procedure rather than a lack of attention to detail in relation to administration.
Since 2002 there have been in excess of 4 million Out-of-Court-Disposals; these types of detection include
These disposal options were largely intended for use in relation to first time offenders where prosecution would not be in the public interest and to prevent comparatively low-level crimes clogging-up the courts. However, an unintended consequence of the Police performance regime resulted in many unsafe detections being claimed to artificially enhance police performance.
All â€˜countedâ€™ as Detections under the Police crime performance regime, strongly influenced individual force detection rates and were acknowledged as an important measure of success and Chief Officer credibility.
It has been repeatedly and firmly established by various audits conducted by police forces, the Audit Commission, Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) and the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) that many of these detections are unsafe and may not be a true reflection of the alleged guilt of the person against whom the detection has been recorded.
Use of Detection Data
Once police record detections, many are then also recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) and Police National Database (PND) whilst others remain as part of a local intelligence record. Applicants seeking employment in positions working with children and/or vulnerable adults or in the case of specified roles e.g. Security Guards and other positions of trust are required to undergo a vetting process. Police records are referenced by the CRB/DBS and a summary of their findings is passed to the potential employer. Clearly if these police records include references to unsafe detections this may unfairly prejudice an applicant.
Vulnerability of unsafe detections
Issues in relation to unsafe Non Sanction Detections (NSDs) were first identified in 2005. This type of detection could be properly used where all of the pre-requisite conditions are satisfied, including the sufficiency of evidence, but it is decided, for a variety of reasons, not to prosecute an offender. In 2006 the Home Office coordinated a wider review of NSDs in other forces and confirmed that detections recorded in these forces were similarly vulnerable. The review conducted by the Metropolitan Police estimated that 80% of all NSDs examined were found to be unsafe. The Metropolitan Police Service alone has recorded 600,000+ NSDs. The CRB were made aware of this.
Â Other types of detections resulting from Out-of-Court Disposals are also vulnerable. Whilst all police forces have systems in place to confirm the validity of detections, given the numbers of cases involved, only a very small sample are examined. Whilst these examinations identified that many detections were procedurally and/or evidentially unsafe, forces did not usually correct the data or advise the victims and/or suspects that the detection data had been appropriately emended. As a result there are a considerable number of unsafe detections that remain part of the police and PNC records that are later relied upon by DBS to inform employers of the background of prospective employees.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that whilst we might be fathers, mothers, sons, daughters etc. to our respective families, to the rest of the world we are the sum of the information recorded about us. If that information is accurate and fair â€“ then there should be no problem, however, it is now very clear that a large proportion of information relating to detections is unreliable thereby making those detections potentially unsafe.
The Home Office and CRB/DBS are fully aware of this situation and will undoubtedly point out that there is now an â€˜Independent Monitorâ€™ employed by DBS to adjudicate on appeals raised by applicants who have now been provided with copies of their own DBS certificates.
Unfortunately, these arrangements do nothing to cater for those unsafe detections that have already been disclosed (there were nearly 4 million Enhanced DBS Certificates issued last year alone) to the obvious disadvantage of the applicantâ€™s capacity to earn, their personal integrity and good character.
More importantly, whilst an applicant can indeed request a review by the Independent Monitor they are (until now) very unlikely to have any reason to suspect that the CRB/DBS disclosure may have been evidentially and/or procedurally flawed and as a result are unlikely to request such a review in the first place. The fact that there have been comparatively few challenges to recorded detections is probably due to one or more of the following reasons;
All rather worrying reallyâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦