CRB checks - Unreliable?

Camden News - By PAUL KIELTHY Published: 27 August 2009

Home Office refuse to explain how convicted abuser landed school job

Victim’s family lodge complaint with police over taxi driver criminal records check failure

THE Home Office and the Met police have declined to clarify how routine police checks on a man who went on to commit child abuse offences while working as a taxi driver for Camden’s schools failed to corroborate his multiple convictions for child abuse in an overseas court

The New Journal reported last week that the man – whose 15 convictions were known about by British authorities but not passed on during criminal record checks when he took the job in 2007 – was given four indeterminate sentences for public protection on separate charges of assaulting one child at Blackfriars Crown Court.

The abuse took place while the child was being driven by the driver and an “attendant” – allegedly asleep during the assaults – hired by Camden Council.

Strict legal rules to protect the identity of the child mean that some details of the case cannot be reported.

Despite jumping bail on his 1991 convictions and facing an extradition hearing in the UK in 2003, the man passed an enhanced criminal records check by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) before taking a job at the private taxi firm which operates Camden’s school-run taxis.

Although the CRB is part of the Home Office, character queries are overseen by Scotland Yard officers.

The Met police said that although his convictions appeared as “intelligence” in the criminal record check run in 2006 – and the man had been arrested by the Met at the request of the overseas’ authorities in 2003 – the officer who handled the query had taken the decision to give the abuser a clear CRB because the convictions could not be “corroborated” by the authorities.

The Home Office said that the CRB system had “worked” but that an “operational decision” by the Met had allowed the abuser to be cleared.

The Home Office spokesman could not say why the abuser was allowed to remain in the UK, or why he was only entered on the sex offenders register in January this year.

Nor could the Home Office confirm the nature of the checks carried out by the UK Central Authority, which was asked by the Met to check with the authorities.

Asked whether any reply had ever been received, the spokesman would only say: “We can confirm that an enquiry was made.”

However, the spokesman added that the introduction of the sex offenders’ register and changes in the rules for registering foreign sex offenders would make this type of incident less likely in future.

The Met initially said that there had been no internal investigation into the incident, but a spokeswoman then added: “We are reviewing this case to assess whether there is any potential learning for the MPS.”

She declined to give any details of when the review had begun, who was conducting it, or what its remit was. Changes in data arrangements at the Met would mean that in future cases the officer making the decision to approve the CRB would have access to extradition unit information, she said.

The family of the abused boy have decided to lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the failure of the CRB check.

They have also lodged complaints against Camden Council, who they say failed adequately to vet sub-contractors working with children, and did not deal sympathetically with their requests to know what procedures had been changed to prevent a similar attack.

The council issued the family of the victim with an apology and called on the police to investigate the CRB system. Changes to its “safeguarding” policies have been devised so that contractors are more closely vetted by the Town Hall in future.

However, the council said that these changes cannot be implemented immediately because it would involve changes to existing contracts with private suppliers.

The system that failed to raise alert

* 1991 – Abuser convicted in an overseas court of multiple sex offences against children and sent to jail.

* 1996
– He appeals, and absconds on bail.

* 2003,
March – The Home Office and Met police are alerted that the abuser is sought in the UK for these offences. The Met’s Extradition Unit believes he is overseas.
* May – Abuser tracked to Leicester, arrested, and brought before Bow Street Magistrates’ court on an extradition warrant. Case thrown out because, according to the Met’s account, under the foreign statute of limitations there is no case to answer after April 2003. Home Office take no further action against the abuser.

* 2006 – Abuser applies for an enhanced CRB check to work for a mini cab company that works with schools. According to the Home Office, the CRB check revealed an overseas conviction.

According to the Met, the CRB check showed “a criminal intelligence report, found at the time of the checks, outlining that allegedly the man had previous convictions overseas, in relation to sexual offences. However, the authorities were unable to confirm any convictions or criminal records in relation to him. “ The abuser was given a clear CRB return.

* 2007 – Camden Council tenders contract for school taxis, and attendants to travel in them. Contract won by firm abuser works for. The council insists on enhanced CRB checks but does not interview candidates individually. Driver commits four sexual offences against a Camden child.

* 2008, May – Council changes rules to introduce “safe recruitment policy”. Abuser pleads guilty to four charges of sexual assault of a child.

* 2009 – Abuser sentenced to four indeterminate sentences for public protection. Neither the council, Met police nor Home Office accept responsibility, although the council apologises to the family.