back to article CRB check failures rocket ahead of massive expansion

The Home Office's Criminal Records Bureau wrongly denounced or cleared more than 1,500 people in the last year, almost three times as many as the previous 12 months. The embarrassing figures have emerged ahead of a massive increase in the number of people who will be subject to background checks when the new Vetting and …


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  1. Tom yng Nghymru

    But the computer says......

    So what will happen to the people who have been turned down jobs on the basis of the incorrect CRB check? After all the computer says it, so it must be true.

    I am a cadet insturctor and all of our instructors have to have an enhanced CRB check. One particular instuctor admitted having a conviction for possession of Canabis from the early 80's. We didn't consider this an issue as it was two decades ago. When her CRB form came through the conviction wasn't listed, however the CRB check she had to have done for work showed it.

    The system doesn't work properly, and in a system like this it either has to work perfectly or not at all.

  2. Nigel Callaghan

    how do they know?

    these are the known errors - what about the unknown ones?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now this is one of the many reasons I love things like the CRB. False positives and negatives are great, ruining lives on many levels. How so?

    Well once someone has been cleared they are trusted regardless of behaviour becouse the computer said yes, this makes it easier for offenders (becouse they can't be bad - the computer said so.) This is true of both offenders who have been incorrectly passed and those who have not been caught. It gives a false sense of security allowing people to wrongly completly drop their guard (then when something goes wrong they're suprised.)

    It's the same for bank fraud as it is for schools.

    The next great thing is the way crb and the ecrb (just imagine how many false accusations shall be made with those eh?) damn innocent people due to administrative failings or overzealous fanatics within various organisations.

    And it will only get worse (what with the ever increasing into staffs privacy regards to sexual and pornagraphic interests, I suspect non-centre political leanings shall be dangerous in the future too.) I wonder what financial orgs would dig up from more detailed probse?

    Many cancers have spread into society, and we're letting them run rampent. It's sad, and it's made sadder by the way we try and spread our cancer to other nations around the world. Japan you arn't paranoid enough about cp ban your ecchi and ero games!

    O well, whatever.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What's happened in the UK that people can now be dammed by rumours and hear-say? Now they've even made a central repository for it!

    Don't like your teacher? Make an anonymous complaint and they'll never work again!

  5. Bumpy Cat

    What the hell happened in March?

    If the fail rate was better than before, until March, that means one single month saw between 1.5 and 2 times MORE failures than the average year. What went so wrong?! That's well beyond "fluctuations".

  6. Anonymous Coward

    So it's our fault?

    "Disclosure quality and accuracy is heavily reliant on the information supplied by the individual"

    Interesting... so it's the individual's fault that they're vilified when the CRB messes up...

  7. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    Can I be the first to say "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear." Yeah, right.

    CRB checks are shite. If they wrongly denounced 1500 people, how many people slipped through the net and showed up as clean when they weren't?

    The worst bit of all this is that it's up to you to clear your name, the CRB don't seem to think they are liable for any damage that may be done to you by their incompetence and of course the Home Orifice back them up on this. I'm sure they'd start doing their jobs right if they had to pay out tens of thousands of pounds to every wrongly accused individual.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardly worth commenting... I assume we're all going to be in agreement.

    The thing that stands out here is how can there be errors on people who have no criminal record?

    A clean CRB check should read something along the lines of "unknown" as in, there is no record of that person. If the check comes back "clean" it means we have a record but we haven't found anything to pin on him yet in which case the record should not exist.

    Personally I blame the British sheeple for acquiescing to all this, in particular the dailymail reading proles who automatically think that anybody who is against such checks or would refuse one is a paedophile.

    I would like to see one person who can put up a real arguement in favour of CRB checks and just one example of how such a check has saved a child or vulnerable person from abuse. Then we can compare it with the numerous cases of those who have passed a CRB check then gone on to abuse those it is meant to protect.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    I don't believe in coincidence!

    "......there was no particular reason why there were about 1,000 errors in March."

    "The department is preparing for the launch of the Independent Safeguarding Authority......."

    Let me guess. There are some new interfaces being installed, some data migration going on and these are being handled with the customary efficiency of Government IT projects. Also, anyone there who can find their own arse without using both hands and a map* is working full time on setting up the shiny new politically important and tabloid headline friendly bit, where a fuckup could lead to heads rolling, rather than the crusty old bit where a fuckup only means that some meaningless pleb (i.e. you and me) gets screwed.

    *Ok, tall order. Maybe "use a computer without drooling" would be better here.

  10. Catkins

    Who will pay the compensation?

    What happens to the person who is wrongly accused of criminality, and either loses their job or has an offer of work withdrawn? Will the government be liable and willing to compensate them for loss of earnings?

    I suspect that any organisation which sacks someone will be able to get away with it. If a check shows that someone is a 'peeeedooo', well of course they're not going to be employed in a nursery and will be given the push. It's not the employers fault if they accept government information. If the wrong information leads to the withdrawl of an offer, nothing can be done there, as employment rights don't normally kick in until you're in actual employment.

    Would you be able to sue the government for libel?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Hi as long as..

    you don´t interrupt the brits in watching Britain got talent you can grap all there liberties, make them pay for it and then lock them up (just give them a portable TV) for ever.

    OH and throw in a fotball match now and again just to activate the other brain cell.

  12. The Cube

    It is time we prosecuted this government

    "Disclosure quality and accuracy is heavily reliant on the information supplied by the individual "

    So basically along the lines of the old US green card questions.

    Want to be a teacher? Please fill out this form,

    Q1) Do you have a criminal record? If so then please list all offences so that the incompetent monkeys mismanaging the CRB can find them all.

    Only when we start banging up the politicians responsible for these crimes against the people who elected them will we see change, perhaps we could start by sending all of Nu Labour to Uzbekistan for 'questioning' about their treason, I am sure MI5 have the right phone numbers, we could fly them out of a little airport in Scotland...

  13. Paolo Marini

    Something is not write...

    oh, I mean, right.

    Are they saying that 4mln people have been employed in the last 12 months? (and 3.5mln the 12 months before that?) As far as I know a CRB check is only performed on a successful candidate and I'd be more than happy to know what skills allowed these 3,900,000 people to find a job...

    Or are they saying that the mistake rate is only just 4 people for each 10,000 ? (and in that case it's a risk that I can live with, as long as they admit that it was a mistake and take corrective actions)

    There, I said it.

  14. Paul Powell


    CRB isn't a bad idea - just poorly implemented.

    Having worked with youth groups, where it saves you is when you have someone enquire, you tell them they need to do a CRB, and then they never get back to you.

    systemic and repeated abuse does happen (although not as much as the daily mail would have you believe). It typically happens in high trust situations, and that's the issue. One of the reasons it occurs in faith groups is the high level of trust because of the unspoken assumption of morality.

    It's very easy to speak of lives ruined by being wrongly identified on a CRB check. There is a solution to that - get better at running them. As for people trusting the clearance too much - well that is also an issue for doing things better in that organisation. Scrapping the whole thing stops the 10,998,500 checks that were done properly, let alone those who were deterred by the prospect of having to apply.

    The scout association has been running checks for donkeys years with a central agency (before CRB they used their own system). They turned down Thomas Hamilton (who carried out the Dunblaine shootings) - not a bad spot that one!

  15. Tom yng Nghymru

    @Something is no write...

    It isn't just people who have been offered a job that need to be CRB checked. Voulenteers working with children and vunerable adults need to be checked. Also people are rechecked periodically.

    I previously worked in the education departement of a local authority. There were several agencies that worked directly with pupils in school across that county and several neighbouring counties. Each county council did their own CRB check - one job working in 4 counties = 4 CRB checks.

    Out of that 4 Million there would be re-checks, multiple CRBs for the same person, members of youth and voluentry organisations, people who have had multiple jobs throughout the year - each one requiring a CRB check.

  16. 27386

    Do the math

    So ~1570 fails in 12 months, and roughly 1000 in the last month.

    So a fail rate of 50/month for the first 11 months, and 1000 for the last one, a factor of *20* difference, not 1.5 or 2 as suggested above.

    This is way beyond any definition of an expected fluctuation I know, and occurring in the last recorded month, what assurances do we have that we have indeed returned to the 50/month rate?

    How do these folks get away with such broken excuses? Who gets to ask them the hard questions?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long until a challenge ??

    IN case anyone missed it, there was a ground breaking decision in the Court of Appeal that was handed down on the 23rd July 2009. This decision dismissed the Appeal of the Home Secretary from a Judgement of a Divisional Court that a particular Act breached Article 8. This will be a useful Judgment to use in simiiar, but not necessarily the same, circumstances;

  18. Anonymous Coward


    Does anyone know when the CRB computer is scheduled to be connected with the ID card scheme and achieve self awareness?

    ARNIE???? We need you NOW baby!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sigh

    >Having worked with youth groups, where it saves you is when you have someone enquire, you tell them they need to do a CRB, and then they never get back to you.

    That's exactly the sort of thinking that falls into the hands of politicians pandering to the masses.

    You're assuming your no show has something to hide when he might be the sort of chap that is required to supervise young people but will not be bullied by a nanny state.

    I assume you have passed a CRB check, all that proves is that you haven't been caught yet, nothing more nothing less. It does not prove that you will not abuse in future. The catch 22 is that the more you insist that is does the less likely anybody is to believe you.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    How exactly would someone fail a CRB with erroneous data?

    It all smacks of BS from the base up. What exactly are they doing to people's working lives these days in the UK, like it wasn't a depressing place as it is, with low wages and low levels of work and productivity. Are they just trying to kill the country off altogether?

    Another poster detailed how one check failed to show up some data they knew to be on her record, however, if someone is wrongly accused of having a criminal record, how does the erroneous data then change the result to a fail?

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Private checks....

    @Paul Powell

    .... are very dodgy. Before you know it you have someone holding details on, say, construction industry workers and then employers can find out all sorts of additional things about them. And we've just seen what happens then.

    Now, what if the sudden increase in failures is actually because they've been ramping up the enquiry rate for testing purposes and that ramp up has now caused many more errors?

    What can we expect when they really have to do the 15 million plus checks that independent commentators think will be needed to comply with the new law?

    I foresee a disaster and meltdown!

  22. Tempest 3K


    I personally have had at least 6 different CRB checks done in the past 9 years, a few for working in schools, and a couple for working on a volunteer project with kids. Why they can't just run some sort of update check if you have a CRB under a certain age that is cheaper and easier I have no idea, but there you go.....

    Fail? Because that's all does, with regard to IT or otherwise....

  23. Anonymous Coward

    System Testing?

    Mabye they were testing the system. I hate it when this happens on live databases. After all it's not like it could have an effect in the real world.....oh wait

  24. Anonymous Coward


    CRB checks are not just required for jobs. Theyre required for anyone who works, even as a a volunteer, with children - PTA committee members, parent volunteers on school trips, parent helpers at xmas plays, someone serving drinks at a school disco etc etc.

    And as a nice little earner for the CRB, each organization you work with has to get its own individial CRB check of you 'tailored to their individual requirements'. Huh? Either I'm a crim or I'm not, surely? Or is the implication that they'd compare your 'preferences' to the age & sex of the potential targets? The mind boggles.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only as Reliable as the Criminals?

    "Disclosure quality and accuracy is heavily reliant on the information supplied by the individual and is subject to fluctuations."

    Does this mean the system is only as reliable as the information supplied by the criminals being vetted? Is this a system that actually depends on criminals being honest for it to work?

  26. Bassey

    @ Chris W

    > That's exactly the sort of thinking that falls into the hands of politicians pandering to the masses

    Marvellous. How glad I am to have someone like you looking after my best interests (i.e. whatever you tell me they are). With people like you to tell everyone what to think and correct them when they go wrong it won't be long before the evil politicians all fall on their swords and we can go back to living that free life of endless summers, jumpers for goalposts and cheeky scamps having their ears tweaked by the local bobby. God bless the queen, guvnor!

  27. Catkins

    Why so many checks?

    I've no objection to CRB checks - in their place. If I work with children or vulnerable adults, I'd be happy to be checked and prove that I’d not been caught yet…. However, the number of jobs which require CRB checks is growing exponentially, required in roles with only the most tenuous links to children and vulnerable people. It’s soon going to be impossible to work in large swathes of employment without one.

    Teacher? Fair enough. Delivery man who occasionally drops stuff off at a school? CRB now required – complete overkill.

    My private sector job involves no contact with children. However last year it required me to spend one afternoon in the company of a group of A-level students. They asked me to be CRB checked, and I declined. Ten 17 year olds in a group, with a teacher in the same room at all times. Funnily enough they backed down when I refused and it all went ahead without incident, but it does appear that the default position is to demand a CRB check when it’s not required.

  28. Catkins

    Easy to fail?

    As more and more jobs require an enhanced CRB check they are getting easier and easier to fail. Not just convictions, but details of arrests and even allegations that have never been tested and that you might not be aware of will appear on your record and be given to potential employers or fellow volunteers. The new Independent Safeguarding Authority will even accept allegations against people directly, using downloadable forms on their site.

    Setting aside the errors, and the authorities treating rumours and unproven allegations as facts, should we really be throwing aside the concept of rehabilitation? Sure, if someone's got a background as a serial sex offender they shouldn't be working with vulnerable adults. But if a 40-something bloke applies for a role helping out his kids football team, should everyone running it be told that he was cautioned for shoplifting or cannabis possession as a teenager? People can put minor indiscretions behind them and lead a productive life. They're not going to volunteer for anything if they're embarassed about things in their past.

  29. Dennis O'Neill

    @Tom yng Nghymru

    So the person had a cannabis conviction from 2 decades ago? Good god! How far back do these things go, then? By those standards, if you picked up a conviction for, say, having a nasty fight when you were 15, then 20 blameless years later you apply for a job in a school, you'd be thought of as someone who violently attacks minors, would you?

    Please tell me I'm wrong. (And no, I'm not talking about me in the above example.)

  30. Sam Liddicott

    The real reason...

    If they could get it right, our oppressors could use CRB checks for the real reason:

    to punish political opponents and make then non-people "openly" (after all we are in a sort of democracy).

    Fortunately they can't get it right.



    How will this affect people who have been in trouble, even serious trouble, who have learned their lesson and turned their life around from working with, mentoring and helping kids heading down the same path?

    Sometimes people who have f***ed-up badly, who have lived the life, are the only adults with any credibility to these kids.

    Kids heading for a life of trouble are going to be prevented from heearing first-hand about how bad a life they could be making for themselves. The only adults they're going to be exposed to (theoretically) are going to be goody-two-shoes.

    With rumours and gossip being admissable to the Stasi's database, I hope to see one of two things happen: one the government is sued for libel and the system is corrected; or two, people who have not had gossip and rumours levelled against them become so rare that childcare, teaching, nursing, etc. becomes untenable tand the whole system collapses on itself.

    I only hope the fuckwits who created it are held personally responsible.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Perish the thought of telling anyone what to think, beside it sounds like I would have too much competition from the dailymail.

    @Dennis O'Neill

    >Please tell me I'm wrong

    Sorry, no you are not wrong and it's even worse than you imagine. That nasty fight one had at 15 need not even be real just gossip that got noted on your school record and then later passed on to the CRB database. Further, imagine the cases of the affectionate four years old or there abouts who have been suspended from nursery school for attempting to kiss another child, officially classed as inappropriate sexual behaviour, they will be forever branded as sex offenders.

  33. Roger Merrick


    The idea is if you have things in your past you disclose and they can be discussed. If you have stopped offending your past shouldn't be a problem, and if you are working with young criminals, having been a young criminal is relevant indeed.

    If something nasty turns up in your CRB you are assumed not to have disclosed, and it is a problem. The good guys ring you up and ask, a little nervously, did you know something might come back in your CRB?

    Unfortunately, others don't ring you, so some people just find they hear no more from that nice job, and everytime they ring up the person they want to speak to is out.

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