The Independent Safeguarding Authority is Wrong

It’s not just writers objecting to the draconian and wrong-minded Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). I am too, and I want you to look at this from both a human rights and natural justice perspective. If the objective is child protection, we already have the tools needed to do that, from social services to the CRB through to the probation service and the police. Baby Peter, famously murdered by his mother’s boyfriend and their lodger, was failed not because there weren’t systems to protect him, but because those tasked with his care were incompetent. His abusers were known to the authorities, they were just assumed not to have been abusing him (despite bountiful evidence to the contrary). The Independent Safeguarding Authority is asserting itself as an extra-legal government agency which assumes everyone is a dangerous paedophile, universally dangerous, unless they can prove they are not.

Deborah Orr says of Ian Huntley, whose murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells led to the formation of the ISA:

Ian Huntley got into his vile little niche because allegations from various sources, one of indecent assault, four of underage sex, three of rape, and a burglary charge, had been disregarded or trivialised. The headmaster of Soham Village College says that even knowledge of the burglary investigation would have persuaded him to turn down Huntley’s application, because part of his job was maintaining the security of the building. (Against government guidelines, he hadn’t even checked Huntley’s references, while the private company that did the police check treated it as a formality.) The truth is that had so many other necessary changes not have already been made since the murders, even Huntley would now get his £64 certificate of worthiness. Paedophiles, of course, are the only people who will really, really want to have them.

It’s a very simple argument really, which even someone as intolerant as Orr can understand: assuming everyone is a paedophile unless (and even if) they prove otherwise is destructive to the social fabric, lumps people together who are not dangers to children alongside people who are (thus making the latter group much more difficult to uncover and track), and doesn’t provide any protection to children who genuinely are in danger of abuse. The ISA is unnecessary, mean-spirited, misguided and won’t work. But that’s New Labour’s approach to everything – if you can’t make a public service work, just create a whole new tier of surveillance and bureaucracy and trumpet that as a solution. They’re trying it with internet traffic, they’re going to try again to crack it with ID cards, and this, as with those other pet projects, will breach human rights law and natural justice. Say you’re an ex-offender, and you’ve been punished by the judicial system as necessary – bang goes your human right to work in whichever sector they choose, and on their whim (vulnerable groups are simply everywhere), not on any grounds of law or justice. Innocent until proven guilty? The government gave up some years ago on that outdated concept, and they now have an agency to implement their philosophy.

It must be abolished at all costs.

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10 responses to “The Independent Safeguarding Authority is Wrong

  1. We were in London a few years ago on a warm May afternoon. Trafalgar Square had the usual thousands of people. After taking many photos, we were on the way back to the hotel for a nap, yes we are that old. Waiting for the bus, we were approached by four police. We were seen on one of the thousands of surveillance cameras, and they thought we had taken to many photos of children.
    One of the officers was a woman, and she very angrily said we should not be photographing children. We were detained for over an hour on a public corner while our shoulder sack was searched, and then every photo on the camera was deleted, not by us but by another officer under her instruction, our passports were examined, our local hotel was taken down and our address in the States. Our sack contained a bottle of water, a Time Out guide, and a Dorothy Sayers mystery. Just what every pedophile carries around. We were told by the strident woman that we could pick up a copy of these proceedings at a local police station the next day if we so chose.
    It was our 53rd. anniversary celebration, and I was arranging for an exhibit of my paintings at a gallery. Although we had almost a week left, we chose to leave
    for home the next day. After over 50 years of coming to the UK, we shall never return.

  2. See and that’s the problem, just as I’ve said. These so-called police have been watching too much SVU it’s frightening. Your story illustrates an important point – the ‘vulnerable’ groups to be ‘safeguarded’ can’t be compartmentalised. How long until you need ISA vetting before you travel into the UK? How long until you need its vetting before being allowed any job? How long until your vetting is included on your ID card? If an authority like this is going to exist, these are the only logical outcomes.

    Is that what any sane person really wants?

  3. Wrong on every count I’m afraid. The ISA is a legal agency (not extra) and in fact puts onto a legal basis, with safeguards for people which were not there before, a system which existed until now as List 99 and more recently also POCAL. These lists were ‘administrative’, departmentally maintained, and subject to Ministerial decision with no in built safeguards for those who were placed on them. ISA removed that ministerial function and transferred it to a statutorily-defined Board independently-constituted, with necessary legal and casework resources. To be considered for inclusion on either of the 2 lists (Children and Vulnerable Adult), there has to be a process by ISA which includes: referral under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, a quasi-judicial process which includes right of representation and of appeal, and a final decision made with legal powers not ‘extra-legal’). This means it is now on the basis of a decision which can be court-appealed and is part of the overall judicial process not a ministerial dictat (however benignly conceived).

    There are various ways to get yourself considered for listing:
    1. You have a conviction for an offence which the law says means you cannot work with such groups again (unless by appeal/review you are removed from such a ban)
    2. Your behaviour in employment is such that your employer has to carry out a legal duty to refer you to ISA, or the police have information which has been referred to the Board – the contraversial area of ‘soft intelligence’ but now subject to the scrutiny of an independent process rather than the current CRB situation where such information is conveyed to potential employers under some safeguards but the employer then has to make a decision.

    Employers use CRB in order to inform their employment decisions. ISA is an entirely different process – it determines if there are those who may not work with children and/or vulnerable people.

    At present ISA has been migrating names from List 99, POCAL and other lists to create the basis for the two ISA lists. This has, as I understand it, meant that for the first time people on those old lists have been contacted to see if they wish to appeal against transfer to the new ISA Lists. I shall be asking FoI requests on that process. This process may well have thrown up long-standing injustices – for example, have there been cases of people put on List 99 many years ago for ‘moral weakness’, as I have heard. We will see. ISA should be an opportunity to redress such wrongs.

    I inputted to Bichard who recommended setting up ISA after Soham. I gave him a very clear picture of what should have happened re Huntley. Bichard opined that the murders would have happened anyway. I profoundly disagreed – on the basis of our work, once CRB information was available, those children were saveable.

    ISA is no panacea – but it is an extra and vital process of putting in one place the names of those who should not be allowed to work with children. It makes the employer responsible for making an ISA check before employing someone to work with children or vulnerable adults. As I said, it also gives those considered for ISA listing rights of appeal and representation which did not exist before. And an end to a multiplicity of lists not controlled by an accountable public process.

    The police nonsense with photos, that was extra-legal. We’ve made a strong point time and again – do not lock children, their lives, their images, away often to protect the arses of those in authority rather than the kids. Imprisoning our kids is wrong, unhealthy and unjust, when we should prevent those who mean them harm from access. There was no law to back the police action, or headteachers from banning parents taking pics at school events etc. All made up on the spot and infringement of kids and parents rights – and wholly daft. Like the BBC showing only kids feet when there’s a report on the news about them – so how about the paedophile foot-fetishist? Don’t laugh, there has to be such a person watching the news. Can such people view your family snaps? Unlikely. Can they access legal and illegal pics easily online, in press ads etc? By the million. Easier than hanging round Trafalgar Square with your camera.

    Thank goodness, the Information Commissioner recently ruled on this area and spoke total common sense after parents rightly complained.

    We’ve got to face a truth no one likes to face – there are such people out there and they can view real children all the time, or photos, or film etc etc. One task is to prevent them having unsupervised access to children even if we don’t know who they are (good child protection procedures) and another is to do what we can to identify and remove from access such people, and also to introduce safeguards against injustice. Nothing’s prefect but ISA is a good step and needs time to work and show how well it has been implemented.

  4. @Jan – My apologies for taking such a long time to respond – other priorities have taken me away from blogging for a day or two. Because you’ve written a long rebuttal, can I address your issues as they come up?:

    Wrong on every count I’m afraid. The ISA is a legal agency (not extra) and in fact puts onto a legal basis, with safeguards for people which were not there before, a system which existed until now as List 99 and more recently also POCAL. These lists were ‘administrative’, departmentally maintained, and subject to Ministerial decision with no in built safeguards for those who were placed on them. ISA removed that ministerial function and transferred it to a statutorily-defined Board independently-constituted, with necessary legal and casework resources. To be considered for inclusion on either of the 2 lists (Children and Vulnerable Adult), there has to be a process by ISA which includes: referral under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, a quasi-judicial process which includes right of representation and of appeal, and a final decision made with legal powers not ‘extra-legal’). This means it is now on the basis of a decision which can be court-appealed and is part of the overall judicial process not a ministerial dictat (however benignly conceived).

    My apologies for not being precise in my terminology. You’re right – the ISA is legal by virtue that it has been set up under the law, but its rulings are not as part of the criminal justice system, indeed they undermine it fundamentally. By arbitrarily deciding who to ‘bar’ (the right of representation and appeal is so tied up in legal minutiae it might as well not be there) it ignores the rule of law and judges people based on a whim. If an ISA administrator simply doesn’t like you, you can be barred, will need a fortune to afford a lawyer to get un-barred, and even then maybe not even be successful. That is quite simply insane – it makes a mockery of every principal of justice you care to put a name to. What you describe is New Labour tinkering – it’s all ok because you have ‘right of representation’, and other ‘remedies’. How well these have worked in other spheres!

    There are various ways to get yourself considered for listing:
    1. You have a conviction for an offence which the law says means you cannot work with such groups again (unless by appeal/review you are removed from such a ban)
    2. Your behaviour in employment is such that your employer has to carry out a legal duty to refer you to ISA, or the police have information which has been referred to the Board – the contraversial area of ’soft intelligence’ but now subject to the scrutiny of an independent process rather than the current CRB situation where such information is conveyed to potential employers under some safeguards but the employer then has to make a decision.

    Sorry but that makes even less sense than the earlier point. You can be ‘barred’ from working with ‘vulnerable people’ (this of course is NOT limited to just children, and such where will it really end?) despite a remedy against whatever you may have been charged with having already been determined by the courts? Is this the road we wish to go down, where you enter the criminal justice system and then receive permanent punishment by (as you put it) a quasi-judicial agency which in effect is answerable to noone? You say that’s ok because there’s an ‘independent process’ of scrutiny? Do you understand how meaningless that is? Who is responsible for this process? What makes them qualified to make it? Why should ‘soft intelligence’ be admissible at all in determining whether people are ‘barred’ from dealing with ‘vulnerable’ people – if it’s not caught under the law, how monstrous for it to be usable by bureaucrats instead!

    I inputted to Bichard who recommended setting up ISA after Soham. I gave him a very clear picture of what should have happened re Huntley. Bichard opined that the murders would have happened anyway. I profoundly disagreed – on the basis of our work, once CRB information was available, those children were saveable.

    You’ve undone your own argument for the ISA I’m afraid. Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells would have been saved by existing agencies doing their jobs properly. Even if not, even if you’re right and CRB information would have prevented Huntley from being hired – that is not a case for the ISA. Quite the opposite in fact.

    ISA is no panacea – but it is an extra and vital process of putting in one place the names of those who should not be allowed to work with children. It makes the employer responsible for making an ISA check before employing someone to work with children or vulnerable adults. As I said, it also gives those considered for ISA listing rights of appeal and representation which did not exist before. And an end to a multiplicity of lists not controlled by an accountable public process.

    That’s not an argument, that’s just sloganeering and it’s a dangerous philosophy to run public agencies with. ‘The names of those who should not be allowed to work with children’ (& other vulnerable groups) eh? Says who? What if the law hasn’t said that? How dare the ISA not just undermine the rule of law, but by its centralising, bureaucratic existence divert attention from the agencies who are already tasked with safeguarding the vulnerable? Lewisham probation and police allowed the deaths of the French students in New Cross because their eyes were off the ball, not because they didn’t have the means of tackling one of their killers. Does it really make more sense to throw money at a bureacracy rather than getting our failing social and public service working properly? I wonder what those who are upset by Baby Peter’s death would say.

    Like the BBC showing only kids feet when there’s a report on the news about them – so how about the paedophile foot-fetishist? Don’t laugh, there has to be such a person watching the news. Can such people view your family snaps? Unlikely. Can they access legal and illegal pics easily online, in press ads etc? By the million. Easier than hanging round Trafalgar Square with your camera.

    Have you been watching too much ‘Brass Eye’?

    We’ve got to face a truth no one likes to face – there are such people out there and they can view real children all the time, or photos, or film etc etc. One task is to prevent them having unsupervised access to children even if we don’t know who they are (good child protection procedures) and another is to do what we can to identify and remove from access such people, and also to introduce safeguards against injustice. Nothing’s prefect but ISA is a good step and needs time to work and show how well it has been implemented.

    Sure we do. But the ISA is an unjust, unaccountable bureacracy whose existence is already ruining lives and wasting public money. While petty administrators subvert the rule of law, genuinely vulnerable people are risking being genuinely abused, but it’ll be more off the radar than ever before. The best safeguard against injustice is not to have such a wrong-minded organisation around at all. I will continue my campaign for the ISA to be abolished.

  5. @ Jan. I must, say, I’m with Cosmodaddy on every point that you have made (although, probably not a surprise, given my postings on similar topics!)

    To simply lend support to those who share the opinions of Cosmodaddy and me…
    Where on earth is the logic in spending money putting a case through the legal system and having evidence against them (and their own defence) scrutinised to a standard “beyond reasonable doubt”, only then to have their case referred to the ISA (invariably by some disgruntled party who didn’t get the outcome they wanted form the legal proceedings) and have the whole affair examined again to the lower, civil standard of “balance of probabilities”?

    Sure we do. But the ISA is an unjust, unaccountable bureaucracy whose existence is already ruining lives and wasting public money. While petty administrators subvert the rule of law, genuinely vulnerable people are risking being genuinely abused, but it’ll be more off the radar than ever before. The best safeguard against injustice is not to have such a wrong-minded organisation around at all. I will continue my campaign for the ISA to be abolished.

    Cosmodaddy… never a truer word!

  6. I have to agree with Cosmodaddy…I am currently being “investigated” by the ISA. After a fabricated disciplinary from my employment I was referred to the POVA list nearly 3 years ago. Within that time, I have struggled to maintain a job, have been fighting an Employment tribunal, arrested, name slurred and a broken marriage due the stress. I have had to sell my home and move out of the area due other’s suspicions of no smoke without fire. Although maintaining my innocence is priority, having a case thrown out of court due to no evidence, why am I now being judged on probability. The ISA have given out information that they should not have contavening my human rights and have ruined my credibility, career and marriage. Abolish this ridiculous harmful organisation…as I am very sure I am not the only one out there.

  7. @Kangamatt – snap! I my case too, allegations have been fabricated, the lies that have been told are in no way corroborated by the ‘evidence’… it stinks, and no-one seems to be ‘big enough’ or have enough common sense and ‘clout’ to stop it.
    See: “Fuck the independent safeguarding authority” topic for my story (sorry, don’t know how to link to it!); but as you and I both know from bitter experience, no matter how much you tell other people, they can’t even come close to understanding what it’s like.

    • I have read what you have said and find our situations and frustrations scarily similar. I wonder if our vulnerabilities are cared for in the same way…I ask that question with cynicism and sarcasm.

      I have been in the field for over twenty years without a scar to my career and one false allegation has led to an optomistic, hard working and morally sound individual to become an emotional, irrational and anxiety ridden deppressive…but I will succed.

      I dont normally do this on blogs, but please contact me via matt.levett@live.co.uk for a chat, a vent anything. If thats something that you would like to do then we can maybe swap phone numbers.

      I really will succed as I am sure you will and will be looking to secure some support to get rid of this illegal, inhumane and police state type behaviour. You can also join my blog on ID cards if you have the inclanation!!

      Look after you and your others my friend.

  8. Safeguarding vulnerable groups act 2006 s.4 states that an appeal against inclusion on the barring list can be made to the tribunal (but only with the permission of the tribunal) and can only be made on a point of law or fact. It then goes on to say that for these purposes the decision whether it is appropriate to include a person on the barred list is neither a question of law or fact!!

    What is it and what purposes does the appeal process have?

    I think this illustrates the problem with this legislation very nicely. It is either incredibly badly drafted or sinisterly misleading!

  9. Pingback: The Independent Safeguarding Authority – Whatever the Cost? | Cosmodaddy

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