The grim consequences of CRB mistakes

Background-screen Last week I wrote a post about the Sun's revelation that in the past six years, 15,000 people have been incorrectly labelled as criminals and sex offenders after erroneous Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks.

However what that statistic (equating to seven wrong checks a day since 2004) doesn't show, is the human cost of having one's name dragged through the mud because of a faulty Government database.

Today, Kent Online has provided a perfect case-study of this cost:

A teacher has been left traumatised after his identity was confused with a convicted drugs offender. Gareth Thomas taught English at the Archbishop's School in Canterbury for seven years.

But he was left stunned when he couldn't return to the profession after taking a career break in 2007.

The reason was the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) found his details closely matched those of a man convicted and jailed for a drugs offence in Winchester 29 years ago.

The mix-up has left 58-year-old Mr Thomas, of Sturry Road, jobless and undergoing treatment for stress.

It is a double blow for Mr Thomas, who volunteered to work at Canterbury Prison as a Spanish translator and found his application blocked by the same case of mistaken identity back in 1995.

I have written before about the inadequacies of the CRB check – but this story crystalises the underlying problem: if you are going to have a check that is perceived as being the gospel truth on someone's personal history, it has to be as close to 100% fool proof as possible. And seven mistakes a day is certainly not 100%.

Once again, even if you have nothing to hide – when it comes to unwieldy, huge state databases; you always have something to fear.

By Dylan Sharpe

Posted by on Apr 22, 2010 in Databases | 12 Comments


  1. Rebel Saint
    22nd April 2010

    True story – I had to refuse a top quality volunteer from our children’s project because his CRB came back with a seious child protection breach. Turned out that the 17 year old he was alleged to have had an “inappropriate” relationship with was his wife with whom he had 3 children!!!!

  2. Purlieu
    22nd April 2010

    how I hate that word … “inappropriate”

  3. David C
    23rd April 2010

    Never mind the mistaken identity – Is it really sensible to automatically debar a man who has a drugs offence from thirty years ago from being a teacher? How many people are unnecessarily barred from working with children because of some irrelevant misdoing in the past?

  4. Claire
    24th April 2010

    As close to 100% foolproof as possible?
    That is a meaningless criterion if ever I heard one. You’ve just created a loop-hole a mile wide! If it’s going to be perceived as gospel truth, it has to be 100% foolproof, surely? If it’s anything less than 100%, then by definition it is not the gospel truth.

  5. Vimax
    25th May 2010

    I had to debris a top affection advance from our children’s activity because his CRB came aback with a seious adolescent aegis breach.

  6. Teresa
    3rd September 2010

    My crb had a list of crimes my son did when he was 17. I have never broken the law and always worked with children, but i was labelled because of my son. Obviously this is going through complaints

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    16th November 2010

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    22nd November 2010

    So I laid down on the bed with the girls for a few minutes, half-undressed because I truly was on my way to the shower.

  9. Emily
    26th November 2010

    I’ve just applied for a job working with the elderly, I did my CRB a couple of days ago and the intial check has shown that they need to wait for the full report. I am mistified by this as I had a police check for working with children in America just 5 months ago. I am annoyed as I can’t start training until its gone through, and I am loosing much need money.

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  11. mr happy
    14th April 2011

    ‘True story – I had to refuse a top quality volunteer from our children’s project because his CRB came back with a seious child protection breach. Turned out that the 17 year old he was alleged to have had an “inappropriate” relationship with was his wife with whom he had 3 children!!!! ‘
    But if this was the case, you could employ this person surely!!!!! The information provided is purely that! Information, its up to the recuiting person to decide if thet information excludes them from the post. If you could verify the aplicants side of the story to your satisfaction, you have/had no reason for not recuiting them? I don’t work with vunrable people, but work in a position of trust, I was concerned that a caution I recived about 20 years ago would show on my CRB, so I discussed it with my manager (it centered around a complaint made about me regarding a phone call i made, as a stupid teenager, so admitedly not a child protection issue), my manager’s attitude was to advise me to stop worrying, as this caused her no concerns, and as it was my CRB did not show this up….my point being, unless someone is specifically prohibited or listed to not work with children/the vunrable, all the CRB does is allow recuiting managers to make an informed chouice/risk assesment of that canidate being a risk or not.
    A ‘positive’ CRB check is not a restriction from working unless it is felt they may be a danger based on the info provided.
    People should sue potential employers if they are not offered the post based on inacurate information, or on a past which is irelivant to the post.

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