The Home Office will, from 1 October, begin the process of correcting an anomaly in the criminal records system which has for decades seen gay men unfairly stigmatised.
Anyone with a historic conviction, caution, warning or reprimand for
consensual gay sex, that meets the conditions laid down in the new Protection of Freedoms Act, will be encouraged to come forward and apply to have these records deleted or disregarded.
Until now, people wishing to volunteer or work in roles that
require criminal records checks have been discouraged from doing so, for fear of having to disclose offences which have long since been decriminalised.
These changes mean that, after a successful application, this information no longer needs to be
disclosed on a criminal records certificate and those individuals who may have been inhibited from volunteering or seeking new work will now find that inhibition removed.
The change was made under the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received
royal assent on 1 May 2012. The Home Office is working closely with the Courts and Tribunals Service, and the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Ministry of Defence to run the application process. A dedicated team of caseworkers will consider
each case and make recommendations to the Home Secretary who will have the final decision.
Successful applicants will have their records updated so the offence will no longer appear on a criminal records certificate or be referred to in any future
From 1st October anyone with a historic conviction for certain decriminalised consensual sex offences can apply to have these records deleted.
Until now, people wishing to work in roles that require background checks have been discouraged from doing so for fear of having to disclose offences which have long since been decriminalised.
The change was made in the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent on 1 May 2012.
You can apply on the Home Website by filling out the following online form.
The Home Office will
then work with the Courts, Tribunals Service and Association of Chief Police Officers. A dedicated team of caseworkers will consider each case and make recommendations to the Home Secretary who will have the final decision.
will have their records updated so the offence will no longer appear on a criminal records certificate or be referred to in any future court proceedings.
CRB vetting? Best thing that ever happened to this country
Last January, Annabel Hayter, chairwoman of Gloucester Cathedral Flower Guild, received an email saying that she and her 60 fellow flower arrangers would have to undergo a CRB check. CRB stands for Criminal Records Bureau, and a
CRB check is a time-consuming, sometimes expensive, pretty much always pointless vetting procedure that you must go through if you work with children or vulnerable adults .
The cathedral authorities expected no
resistance. Though the increasing demand for ever tighter safety regulation has become one of the biggest blights on Britain today, we are all strangely supine: frightened not to comply. Not so Annabel Hayter. I am not going to do it, she said.
And her act of rebellion sparked a mini-revolution among the other cathedral flower ladies.
As many as 4million volunteers have been forced to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks over the past decade, according to a new report, but many are giving up on their roles because of the red tape involved and the feeling that they are under
People who devoted their spare time to helping out in their communities say they found the vetting process thorough insulting while the bureaucracy it entails creates a burden and a bore .
Even people who sell
tickets to a botanic garden or offer to write a local newsletter have been told that they must have their backgrounds checked in case they pose a risk to children.
Some children are being prevented from joining Cub packs and Scout troops until
their parents have been vetted, while schools are forcing visitors to wear badges displaying their CRB numbers and making teachers accompany them to the lavatory.
The flower guild at Gloucester Cathedral, who make arrangements before services,
were told they had to be vetted to prevent paedophiles infiltrating their group, and in case they used the same lavatories as choirboys. Five members have already resigned while a further 20 are threatening to do so.
Since 2002 the CRB, an agency
of the Home Office, has carried out 20m detailed background checks on those who work regularly with children or vulnerable adults. Its Enhanced Checks look for convictions or cautions as well as unproven allegations held on file by police.
Although volunteers themselves do not pay to be vetted, their organisations must pay a £20 administration fee while the rest of the cost is borne by CRB checks paid for by companies and public sector bodies.
The new report, Volunteering Made Difficult , discloses that 3.87m volunteers have been vetted over the past eight years – a fifth of the total. A further 2m are likely to have to sign up when the Government's new vetting and barring
scheme, now on hold pending a review, comes into force.
Josie Appleton of The Manifesto Club, the civil liberties group that compiled the new report, said: The regulation pressed on volunteers is completely out of proportion with the everyday
nature of their activities - after all, they are just listening to children read or doing the crosswords with elderly people.
When I became a bishop, I had to fill in a form to say I hadn't been charged with any relevant offences.
This was sent to a central department to be checked and verified. (Sometimes, the computer
the Home Office uses can't cope with the flood, and parish appointments are held up for weeks or months. Also, the CRB staff sometimes misread the forms and send them back for more unnecessary information.)
after I arrived in the diocese, I was asked to be patron of a local inter-church youth organisation. This meant I had to fill in another form and be checked again.
And then, when I was invited to speak at a youth rally
elsewhere in the country, I had to do the same once more. And because I'm a governor of a school, I had to do yet another.
This is just my own local version of the disease which has gripped us as a nation.
It crept up on us slowly, so we didn't really notice anything was wrong. But once you start checking up on everybody all the time, where do you stop?
Plans for a database of adults who want to work with children have been halted following a wave of criticism.
Ministers feared the Vetting and Barring scheme, designed to protect children from paedophiles and which was due to be introduced in
England and Wales next month, would drive a wedge between adults and children.
Nine million people who wanted to work with children or vulnerable adults would have had to register on the database, or face a £5,000 fine.
plan was heavily criticised by nurses, teachers and actors such as Sir Ian McKellen, who said the measures were excessive.
It would also have affected parents who signed up for school driving rotas for weekly sports events or clubs.
night, 66,000 employers, charities and voluntary groups were being informed of the sudden change of plan.
Home Secretary Theresa May will say that the scheme is being halted to allow the Government to remodel the scheme back to proportionate,
common sense levels . The safety of children and vulnerable adults is of paramount importance to the new Government. However, it is also vital that we take a measured approach in these matters. We've listened to the criticisms and will respond
with a scheme that has been fundamentally remodelled. Vulnerable groups must be properly protected in a way that is proportionate and sensible.''
Tim Loughton, the children's minister, will say he was worried that the scheme would
have driven a wedge between children and well-meaning adults, including people coming forward to volunteer with young people : Such individuals should be welcomed, encouraged, and helped as much as possible, unless it can be shown that children
would not be safe in their care.
Civil liberties campaigners welcomed the news. Dylan Sharpe, the Campaign Director for Big Brother Watch, said: While the new Government's tackling of vetting and barring is welcome, this cannot be just a
'Better safe than sorry' guidelines at the vetting agency
How long before such lifestyle choices such as holidaying in Thailand gets people banned from working with kids for life? And on the other side of the coin, I bet they will never
consider being a religious cleric as a risk factor.
People could be banned from working with children because of their attitudes or lifestyles.
Workers judged to be loners or to have a chaotic home life could be barred from working with vulnerable people, even though there is no evidence that they
pose a risk, according to guidelines from the Government's new vetting agency.
Decisions about staff will be taken by officials who have never met them, based on details passed on by their employers.
Experts claimed that the Big Brother
approach meant innocent people could have their careers wrecked on the basis of cruel rumours or ill-informed moral judgements.
The row is the latest controversy to hit the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which was set up to vet
millions of people working with vulnerable people.
Guidance seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which has been given to more than 100 case workers at the ISA reveals that those referred could be permanently blocked from work if aspects of their home
life or attitudes are judged to be unsatisfactory.
It says case workers should be minded to bar cases referred to them if they feel definite concerns about at least two aspects of their life, which are specified in the document.
It means, for example, that if a teaching assistant was believed to be unable to sustain emotionally intimate relationships and also had a chaotic, unstable lifestyle they could be barred from ever working with children. If a nurse was
judged to suffer from severe emotional loneliness and believed to have poor coping skills their career could also be ended. ISA's case workers are expected to establish the person's relationship history and emotional state based on the file
passed on by their employer.
Psychologists, professional regulators and health and teaching unions last night expressed horror over the guidance. Harry Cayton, chief executive of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which oversees
Britain's nine health regulators, said: My concern is that judgements are being made not on the basis of facts but on opinion and third party perceptions.
Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said: This Government is creating a
society where everyone is treated as guilty unless they are proved to be innocent. These changes contravene any principles of natural justice and will destroy the lives of decent innocent people. Gordon Brown is creating Government by thought police
Adrian McAllister chief executive of ISA said no one would be barred purely on the basis of their lifestyle or attitude, given that all referrals had to identify either harm done, or a future risk of harm . He said: One of the
understandable concerns we have heard from people is that they could be barred for private interests like pornography, or liking a drink. That isn't the case. We only look at these risk factors if relevant conduct [actual harm] or a risk of harm has been
The organisation was unable to explain the reasoning behind its instruction to staff that definite concerns in two areas should be sufficient to be minded to bar staff. It would only say that the protocol follows advice from
a forensic psychologist.
Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, has ordered a review of the Government's scheme to vet around 11 million adults who work with children or vulnerable adults.
Balls said he wanted to look again at the scope of the Vetting and Barring scheme
to make sure the right balance has been struck on how many people are covered.
There was outrage last week when it emerged parents who regularly give lifts to other children on behalf of clubs like the Cub Scouts would be required to
undergo criminal records and other checks.
The supposed review will be carried out by ISA chairman Sir Roger Singleton and will report by the beginning of December, Balls said.
In a letter to Barry Sheerman MP, the chairman of the Commons
Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, Balls defended the scheme, and claimed there was strong support for it among children's charities and in the voluntary sector.
He claimed that asking people to register for vetting was
categorically not a presumption of guilt, but a sensible and proportionate contribution to keeping children safe .
But he acknowledged concerns about how low the bar for contact with children was set before people were
required to register.
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said the announcement was "not good enough" and called for a review of the whole issue. He said: I'm afraid this is just not good enough. The reality is that the
Government's words on this are so vague and ill-defined that no one will know where the dividing line falls. They'll look at the level of fines and register everyone to be on the safe side. The Government has to look at this whole issue again.
Ministers are under intense pressure to scale back plans for a big brother child protection database which will force millions of parents to undergo paedophile and criminal checks.
In a major blow for the Government, Britain's largest
children's charity, the NSPCC, criticised the regulations for parent helpers which it said threatened perfectly safe and normal activities and risked alienating the public.
Esther Rantzen, the founder of the Childline charity;
paediatricians; teachers; children's authors; politicians and members of the public also joined the growing coalition opposing the Vetting and Barring Scheme, which could lead to one in four adults being screened.
Barry Sheerman, Labour chairman
of the Commons' children and families select committee condemned the way the policy was being implemented and demanded that Children's Secretary Ed Balls get a grip on this.
Next month parents in England and Wales who take part in any
formal agreement to look after children – even if it is as little as once a month – will be told they have to register with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) – at a cost of £64. From next summer, parents who have failed to register
with the ISA could face prosecution.
Critics claim parents will be wrongly labelled as criminals. Others fear that those who currently give up their time to help out in schools and clubs could give up rather than go through the hassle of
Wes Cuell, director of services for children and young people for the NSPCC, said: The warning signs are now out there that this scheme will stop people doing things that are perfectly safe and normal, things that they shouldn't
be prevented from doing.
When you get this degree of public outcry there is generally a good reason for it. I think we are getting a bit too close to crossing the line about what is acceptable in the court of public opinion. We don't want to
throw the baby out with the bathwater.
More than 1,500 people have been wrongly branded as criminals or mistakenly given a clean record by the government agency set up to vet those working with children.
The number of errors by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has more than doubled
in the past 12 months, despite intense pressure for it to improve its performance.
Many of the victims of mistakes would have been intending to take up jobs as teachers, nurses and childminders, or become youth volunteers.
innocent people have been accused of wrongdoing by the CRB. They are likely to have faced career problems or stigma from their communities as a result. They will also have had to go through an appeals process to clear their names.
figures are an embarrassment for the Home Office, which faced criticism after the number of errors by the bureau was first highlighted by The Daily Telegraph last year.
The latest figures show that 1,570 people being checked by the CRB were
wrongly given criminal records, mistakenly given a clean record or accused of more serious offences than they had actually committed in the year to March 31.
This compares with 680 people in the previous 12 months. The disclosure is likely to
deter innocent people from applying for positions that require scrutiny, for fear of being labelled a criminal.
A copy of the CRB's annual report, which will be formally published next month, shows that 3.9 million certificates were processed by
the agency: an increase of 500,000 on 2007-08 and the highest figure since the agency's creation.