Whose record is it anyway? Thousands of CRB errors revealed

police-3Today Big Brother Watch has unveiled the scale of errors in the criminal record check system.

Nearly 12,000 people over the past five years have wrongly been branded criminals or seen irrelevant or inaccurate information disclosed during criminal record checks.

  • 11,893 people successfully challenged CRB results in past five years
  • £1.98m paid out in redress
  • 4,196 people challenged information held by a local police force
  • 3,519 people given the wrong person’s criminal record
  • 4,088 found inaccurate information or potential wrong identity on police national computer

We’ll be writing to the Information Commissioner to highlight the scale of this issue and the clear issues that this research identifies.

It’s essential people should not have to rely on a CRB check to find out about inaccurate, misleading or wrong information being stored about them, particularly when that information is available to other public organisations and police officers.

The most common errors were where information was disclosed by local police forces or the police national computer. In 3,519 cases the wrong person’s entry on the police national computer was disclosed.

Of course there is also the risk that convicted criminals escape detection when their records are allocated to the wrong person.

The CRB system is rightly being reformed by the Coalition but more needs to be done. Every error has the potential to ruin someone’s reputation and career. The fact that thousands of cases have involved information held by local police forces, often never tested in court, shows how dangerous it is to create a culture of safety by database.

While the new process of allowing candidates to see their CRB check is a step forward, but the fact that so many errors are occurring in police forces must beg the question whether something more fundamental needs to change.

“The police hold a vast amount of information, from photographs to written notes, and the way forward must be to bring this murky system out into the open and ensure that only information that is absolutely necessary is held.