The Independent Safeguarding Authority Breaches Human Rights

Commentator shebunkin on the Observer’s Comment is Free asks:

between 11m – 14m people working with children or vulnerable people will have their privacy invaded, and be effectively treated as fitting a criminal profile by virtue of their occupation or voluntary activity. they will pay approx £80m for this priviledge – a tax which the non-profiled don’t have to pay. and it will achieve very little which could be termed ‘positive’ and much damage, including to children themselves. one or two people will strike gold – its an ill wind etc…

furthermore, it will be illegal to hire, and to work or volunteer in the prescribed fields of work. the citizen’s right to work will be predicated on registering on the database.

how can this disproportionate legislation be compatible with the human rights act?

You’d think it isn’t, but looking at the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) I can’t see an immediate loophole to exploit to strike the legality of the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s (ISA) existence down. The ISA’s mandate clearly breaches the Universal Declaration (article 23) however, but the UDHR isn’t enforcable under any law. The ISA may be a political disaster (and should be treated as such), but legally it’ll be difficult to get abolished.

If I’m wrong on this, I’d love someone to pick out the legislation’s weak spots. It does seem improbable that the Vetting and Barring Scheme should be able to rescind people’s rights to employment, for reasons wich aren’t based on law.

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65 responses to “The Independent Safeguarding Authority Breaches Human Rights

  1. Jose Appleton who runs the Manifesto Club campaign which I mentioned the other day has written about her experience contacting the Home Office to suggest people may revolt.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7162/

  2. The writers shouldn’t be portraying themselves as an outraged special case; they should have gone for “high-profile spearhead for those without a voice” (i.e., all the rest of the databased people).

    Safeguarding

    The things that will kill practically may be:

    Continuing child-rapes by “safe” people showing it to be a waste of space.

    Paedophiles on the database who use it to get access to victims, or to areas where safeguarding causes complacency.

    Continued sackings of people with no negative record mid-stream in ther careers because the system forces disclosure of e.g., hearsay deemed unworthy of investigation years before by the police, and the paranoid climate forces cautious governors to overreact. Happening already.

    People refused jobs who go to be plumbers instead because of irrelevant forced disclosures now that cautions stay on your record until you are 100. Happening already.

    A legal challenge.

    Ultimately it will eat itself as people stop going into the 300 professions covered,and they will need teachers and nurses etc from somewhere. But by then our caring professions will be wrecked.

    This Government won’t abolish it, since they are pathological on these questions (and have sunk 200m into it).

    The next one might. I’m hoping for a Tory minority Govt as the best chance, with a LD balance of power.

    • Oh ‘safeguarding’ will by its very definition cause complacency. And watch how children and other ‘vulnerable’ groups won’t be protected by the ISA, but it’ll take a lot of digging to prove it. By having so many people on its list it will trumpet its effectiveness, yet already seems unbothered to appreciate who they are or might be. They’re just ‘potential paedophiles’. I mentioned ‘Brass Eye’ in another comment – how Chris Morris must be laughing now!

      Continued sackings of people with no negative record mid-stream in ther careers because the system forces disclosure of e.g., hearsay deemed unworthy of investigation years before by the police, and the paranoid climate forces cautious governors to overreact. Happening already.

      Indeed. This isn’t just, this is making people answerable to criteria other than the rule of law, both undermining it, and people’s otherwise normal relationships with one another. Whilst there should be child protection services and facilities, even a guiding philosophy, saying that noone whosoever who has made mistakes in their past is now allowed to come back from them, or be judged independently on the merits of their history, takes apart a cornerstone of how we relate to one another and is a lousy way of conducting ‘protection’ of the ‘vulnerable’. The child protection industry and government seem indifferent to the reality that there are vulnerable people on both sides of this equation.

      The next one might.

      I remain hopeful, but this centralising, database state is being guided largely by a ruling philosophy in Whitehall. Alan Johnson himself the other day referred to himself as just a hack in charge, who mostly did as he was told. His Tory successor I fear will do exactly the same. All the results of the Blair government’s schism from the civil service. Thanks Tony – New Labour really was new danger!

  3. @ James – Great comment by the way, and love the article. I will use it as another blog entry tomorrow (with all due credit). It’s curious from rock_bottom’s comments on the other post, just how much of a revolt against the ISA is already building. It’s something I’m going to start investigating very soon indeed, and report back on.

  4. >Oh ’safeguarding’ will by its very definition cause complacency. And watch how children and other ‘vulnerable’ groups won’t be protected by the ISA, but it’ll take a lot of digging to prove it. By having so many people on its list it will trumpet its effectiveness, yet already seems unbothered to appreciate who they are or might be. They’re just ‘potential paedophiles’. I mentioned ‘Brass Eye’ in another comment – how Chris Morris must be laughing now!

    Continued sackings of people with no negative record mid-stream in ther careers because the system forces disclosure of e.g., hearsay deemed unworthy of investigation years before by the police, and the paranoid climate forces cautious governors to overreact. Happening already.

    Indeed. This isn’t just, this is making people answerable to criteria other than the rule of law, both undermining it, and people’s otherwise normal relationships with one another. Whilst there should be child protection services and facilities, even a guiding philosophy, saying that noone whosoever who has made mistakes in their past is now allowed to come back from them, or be judged independently on the merits of their history, takes apart a cornerstone of how we relate to one another and is a lousy way of conducting ‘protection’ of the ‘vulnerable’. The child protection industry and government seem indifferent to the reality that there are vulnerable people on both sides of this equation.

    >The next one might.

    >I remain hopeful, but this centralising, database state is being guided largely by a ruling philosophy in Whitehall.

    Are you sure on that? Is it not mainly that Whitehall has been infected from New Lab and their “disconnected from the grassroots” centralism/technocratic drive? I’d point to how TB and friends undermined the capability of Labour to remove their leadership after they won control (i.e., they climbed up then broke the ladder), which is mainly why Lab is difficult to reform now. Once they commit to running it from the centre, a technocratic/authoritarian style is the only option.

    I’d agree that Whitehall has been relatively “value free”, but I’m not sure how far they have driven the centralising agenda.

    It brings us back to the most important project, however – the revitalisation of grassroots democracy.

    How do we make national government butt-out of local politics?

  5. It’s interesting to see the Mail is running against this, and the readers comments +/- also. the GP has moved on from Paedogate it seems.

  6. This whole protection of the public thing seems to be getting out of control. I now have two CRB disclosures (one for Sunday School and one for a Christian summer camp) and now it looks like I’ll need to add the ISA check too. This is just going to increase the cost of volunteering to a ridiculous degree.

  7. Pingback: The Independent Safeguarding Authority is a ‘Club’ for ‘Decent’ Adults « Cosmodaddy

  8. Apologies to those that have read other posts of mine – but this is another mammoth one!

    Back to the OP. I think you’re right – any legal challenge will be a monumental battle. Paedogate is so enshrined in society now it will take more than the righting of the wrongs it has created to redress the balance. As has been said by others in similar anti-ISA topics: how can you legally challenge a framework designed to establish that someone *might* be unsuited to working with ‘target’ groups – especially when that framework has legal backing?
    Well… in my musings, I wonder, could that be a basis for the challenge in itself? Simple statistics can prove (certainly to a greater degree of accuracy than “on the balance of probability”, as adopted by the ISA in it’s decision making process) that most people *definitely are not* unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable adults. Therefore, does this not invoke articles 6 and 8 of ECHR? See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7841888.stm

    @Cosmodaddy – I agree with your reference to article 23 of the EDHR, can we not invoke article 23 under UN law? (I’m not a legal man, so I really don’t know).

    Interestingly, since the referenced BBC article was published in January, the ISA no longer provisionally list people whose cases they are considering (for those who are fully aware of my position, my case started in September 2008 – I’m currently provisionally listed until the ISA clear the backlog and examine my case – which alone, speaks volumes for their approach to this whole issue).

    The fact that the ISA no longer provisionally list people whilst they consider the merits of each case is surely another nail in the coffin for the effective protection of children etc. because there is now a greater window for real abusers to go on abusing, whilst the details are considered. Not only that, but those (like me) who are being hauled through the system as a result of malicious allegations are surely more likely to suffer from snap decision making and people covering their own backs. I wonder how many more careers will be needlessly destroyed and lives lost in the pursuit of this ineffective process (incidentally, the BBC article was published 5 days after I was released from hospital after a failed suicide attempt, following a letter saying I am “provisionally listed” until the merits of the case can be examined).

    Because the likelihood of a confirmed listing in my case is low, I will certainly be taking some serious legal advice when this is over… but it’s a sorry state of affairs when society deems that ‘justice’, is remuneration, rather than an apology and the deletion of all the data that has been acquired over the last 2 years, since the involvement of the police etc. etc… Having been at the bitter end of a malicious accusation and all that goes with it, I know which I would prefer.

    On the back of that, if I was a judge, I’d be screaming from the rooftops that there is already legislation in place that prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups… provided that it is used properly. If someone has indecent images of a child, they are clearly unsuitable to work with children. There is a law against that, and a conviction carries an automatic bar from working with children. Simple. The evidence (and the persons defence) is scrutinised to a high standard and a consensus reached by a jury of “…12 good men and true…” – the system is fair, open to scrutiny and robust. For the legal system to endorse the ISA, to me suggests that they do not have faith in themselves.

    This brings me back to the ISA. The real weapon in their arsenal is the disgruntlement felt by those who accuse. The allegations made against me were initially investigated by the police, and after my arrest and at three month investigation they were satisfied that I had done nothing wrong. However… the superiors of the person who accused me was far from satisfied and 9 months after the police closed the investigation, this ‘superior’ (jobsworth, cock… whatever you want to call him) decided that the ISA should be informed… hence this current mess. These disgruntled parties are (in my mind) more dangerous than the ISA – and the ISA will perversely exploit this.

    So… to occupy my tiny brain I’ve decided to adopt the approach of these database-mongers and scare-tacticians that created the ISA and have analysed other aspects of my life, to assign myself to similarly useless and arbitrary lists of what I would and wouldn’t be suitable for, based on policy-making levels of stereotype and general hype. I hope the sarcasm doesn’t drip off your monitor.

    1. I’m 28 and therefore one of the first of the “generation who know their rights but not their responsibilities”. Of course, this is assuming (by those same policymakers) that I can even read and write my own name…. if I can, I’m “gifted and talented” and can achieve anything I want (really?). If not, I have a special (ooops… it’s now ‘specific’) educational need (SEN). Whichever, there IS a list available that I can go on.

    2. At 5’5” (towards the bottom end of the average height spectrum in the UK), I wouldn’t be suitable to stack supermarket shelves because of health and safety implications, people could run over me with a trolley… whatever, put me on an ‘unsuitable’ list for that. And while you’re at it, tall people… they need to go on an ‘at risk register’… the air’s thinner up there you know.

    3. I’m (slightly) overweight…. Diabetes and coronary heart disease waiting to happen. Don’t let me work in a cake factory or even enter a shop that sells anything other than carrots and broccoli. In fact… I’ve got a great idea Mr. Brown… let’s ban calories.

    4. I drink alcohol, not to excess, but there’s a risk that I *might* turn into a binge drinker… add me to that list please.

    5. I’m a gay male. (no pussy-footing around please, get over it and then carry on taking the piss) so by stereotype alone… this puts me at risk of an ’emotional crisis’ (oh! please!) and makes me unsuitable for everything except cake decorating, hair dressing and flower arranging… but wait, I’m already on a list of people with hay-fever, I have aichmophobia (a fear of sharp objects) and did I mention, I’m slightly overweight….

    Having gone round the houses… where do I stand? Arbitrary lists are going to continue to be developed and each one is going to based more and more on speculation and tittle-tattle alone. We need to take a stand on each and every one. The legal challenges for the ISA are going to be hard to mount, and I fear, will need to be fought on a case by case basis to chip away at what it does (or doesn’t do) rather than a landmark case that will really rock it’s foundation. What really worries me (I admit, partly out of self-pity) is how many “…good and true…” people need to lose their livelihood or life to prove the ISA is not only draconian (as quoted in the House of Lords) but also fundamentally wrong?

  9. Such ranting, all based on fundamental ignorance of how and why ISA has come about.

    Pre ISA, what have we had? Enhanced CRBs with ‘soft intel’ – potentially murky area with very little framework and no consistency across Police Forces. What do you put into the Disclosure Process and When?

    Then the existing various lists on which people have been placed – how many such lists, how do their separate criteria relate, if at all? What processes produce those lists? When the working groups worked on the ISA idea after Bichard one issue I noted was the many lists used (sometimes by professional bodies) where alleged offences could be the basis of exclusion from employment. Were these lists shared? No.

    To say that ISA would/will increase the chance of unfair disbarment from employment is so far from the truth – you should have been asking this about the existing ‘administrative’ lists and I am quite clear the whole ISA process was conceived with this issue well to the forefront – I was there and many professionals made the same points.

    If you want a horror story try List 99, which seems to have existed since ?1930 ish in some form or other. In the day when single women could be and were locked away for years in mental institutions for having a baby (‘morally defective’), I am informed that similar reasons got people onto List 99. How much of similar ilk is now lost to view, or worse still, remained intact to this day? It might be interesting to see if ISA might tell the public some results of the migration process – from the old Lists to the ISA lists – as I understand they contacted all on those old Lists to see if people wanted to represent they should not be taken forward. I.e a chance to remedy injustice?

    You all seem to want to overlook that list 99 etc were subject to Ministerial fiat – yes with expert advice – but still not in any sense quasi-judicial. ISA is set up on the basis of an independent Board with such quasi-judicial powers within a legal framework and with right of appeal.

    It also creates one list which copntains those who are adjudged to be unsuitable to work with children. People will not be put on it easily – but in order to create it, those who work with kids will need to be screened (in a one-stop process with CRB checks) to see if they are on it already or there are reasons for them to be included.

    Returning to ‘soft intel’ I had a recent chat with someone in a Police Force who was not sure how and when ISA might take on that issue. That is an area where maximum safeguards are needed. I have seen soft intel work very well (albeit 20 years too late for many of the kids) but it is a minefield.

    Let’s have less ‘poor me’ victim stuff and more fact. That will ensure safer kids and justice for employees.

    • To say that ISA would/will increase the chance of unfair disbarment from employment is so far from the truth – you should have been asking this about the existing ‘administrative’ lists and I am quite clear the whole ISA process was conceived with this issue well to the forefront – I was there and many professionals made the same points.

      And yet it’s not ‘far from the truth’. Have you seen how feeble the appeals process is? The ISA machine is almost entirely unaccountable. In my experience any body with power that complete tends to use it. ‘Victim stuff’? Do you really believe that it’s right that the rule of law, that accountability of public services should be side-stepped for any reason under the sun? Isn’t that same mentality the reason why the government isn’t being held to account by parliament? It too ‘knows best’ after all (except it doesn’t).

    • Jan said –

      “To say that ISA would/will increase the chance of unfair disbarment from employment is so far from the truth”

      But Jan, according to the ISA themselves –

      “At the time the ISA becomes aware of issues which have been identified as serious enough to have their consideration for barring. We will make an initial decision to ‘suspend’ and ensure employers with an interest are notified so they can make their own decisions”

      So, basically allegations can be made and individuals barred and removed from regulated activity without any evidence whatsoever – based upon a hunch even – AND YOU SUPPORT THIS AND SAY WE’RE JUST RANTING?

  10. Jan

    I think you are complacent as to the consequences of the legal setup that has now been created, and I think the evidence demonstrates that that is the case – but I’m not doing a point by point rebuttal here.

    Matt Wardman

  11. Jan, I’m not so much bothered by pre-ISA. I’d like to go back to pre-CRB.

    These things came about following frenzied reporting over one or two tragedies. We didn’t suddenly have an epidemic of paedophilia and I think this knee jerk reaction in hyper-vetting has done our kids a vile disservice which is becoming more and more apparent each day.
    The ‘apparent’ benefits of both the CRB and ISA in my mind pale into insignificance up against the long term damage we’re doing in our communities because of the suspicion and mistrust this widespread vetting breeds.

    You can’t have failed to notice that normal everyday interaction between adults and children is already severely damaged and that’s one of the reasons why I’ll fight vigorously against it at every opportunity.

  12. What do you put into the Disclosure Process and When?

    What has been proven under the law. The ISA goes above and beyond that, blacklisting people without easy or affordable (or meaningful really) appeal, because of past situations which the ‘authority’ can freely misidentify/misunderstand/misrepresent out of convenience. It won’t do that? It already does.

  13. We’ve seen this before – the presumption of criminality, which you then have to prove otherwise, at your cost/your inconvenience: ID cards, super databases, police attacking innocent protesters – these things are all connected, and are all sinister. To say that the ISA is some form of effective, new child ‘protection’ agency, when it’s been simply demonstrated on another post how easy it will be for potential abusers to sidestep it, is just ludicrous.

  14. Jan.

    Please, we’re not a bunch of muppets that post on here because we just want to sound off about something we dislike. I suspect that most of us are well aware of the background to the ISA. Fortunately, we all seem savvy enough to connect the ISA to the wider social climate, and also to various long-term political goals.

    Nobody wants unsuitable people people to work with cildren and vulnerable groups. However, the ISA promotes and embodies a systematic distrust in society, and suspicion of every adult who works with children and vulnerable people. I think that this is reason enough to abhor the existance of the ISA.

    However, it has also been shown (in these postings, and related topics, but also in the media) that these types of legislation instill into our children the ‘untouchable’ attitude. This promotes the dysfunctioning society that government is trying to remedy (if you believe what they say). One of the biggest problems with this is that the people we task with developing our children (i.e. teachers (like me); social workers; care staff etc.) are increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of this legislation, through untrue allegations. Concomitantly people who are suitable to hold ‘regulated’ positions are being branded as unsuitable… through a failure (and sometimes abuse) of the legislation.

    You said: “Let’s have less ‘poor me’ victim stuff and more fact. That will ensure safer kids and justice for employees.”

    There doesn’t have to be ‘fact’ for the ISA to bar someone. “On the balance of probability” (legal meaning: “it is more likely than not”) does not make a point that they may be considering a fact.
    Especially when you consider that referring parties all have their own agenda as to why they think the person whom they are referring should be barred. (aside: I suspect, usually, covering their own back because of the litigious blame-oriented society this type of legisltaion promotes.)

    To contextualise this, it is statistically proven that about 60% of men will have an affair during the course of their married life. Therefore, “on the balance of probability” ALL married men are adulterous. Clearly, this conclusion is wrong; but is the conclusion that the ISA would have to reach, determined by their own policy.

    Now… back to your post: “To say that ISA would/will increase the chance of unfair disbarment from employment is so far from the truth”.

    I’m afraid I disagree with you again Jan: –

    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!! (Copied from comment by: ‘Bob’ on post: “The Independent Safeguarding Authority is Wrong”)

    I do agree that the old “list:99” had many inherent weaknesses; but it seems clear from the Safeguarding vulnerable groups Act (2006) that weaknesses have been legislated into the ISA… mostly concerning the discretionary barring of people who have not be proved to commit an offence that invokes the ISA’s autobar procedures.

    Furthermore, the ISA (and the legislation behind it) creates a conduit by which many, upstanding citizens can have their lives and careers ruined by members of the public that have made exagerrated or malicious referalls to the ISA. There is no legislative protection for those subject to this kind of referral; nor a method by which the ISA can punish those who made this kind of referral. Yet, no matter how malicious the allegation, a dossier of ‘soft’ intelligence remains on file until the ‘accused’ reaches retirement age. (aside: even policy-makers cannot agree on this, some say the info will remain until retirement, others say it will be destroyed as soon as it is realised it is untrue (spot the obvious problem here!) Interstingly, the information commissioner has written to the ISA about this, and is still awaiting a response.)

    If all that I have said thus far were not true, I would not be being investigated by the ISA now. The referral of my name was made by someone who was exceptionally disgruntled when it was proved through investigation by the police, that something I had allegedly done, did not happen. Furthermore, if the police were concerned that what I was accused of ‘could’ have happened, but they simply didn’t have the evidence to prosecute, they could have referred my name to the ISA directly.

    Ultimately, regardless of the decision of the ISA, at best, my career has been seriously blighted in ascertaining that I had not harmed a child, or placed one at risk of harm.

    There’s no “woe is me, I’m a victim” here – it’s an injustice, plain and simple. One that is repeated on an unprecedented scale, and is only set to spiral out of control, because the legislation was designed to prevent challenge.

    There is no justifiable reason for the existance of this under-hand legislation, based on social paranoia and scare-mongery, that can be used by *anyone* to ruin someone else’s life and career, in a manner that cannot be fairly and openly challenged.

  15. Beautifully argued there, rock_bottom. Great post.

  16. ‘Balance of probability’ will not be a question of reliance on hearsay or rumour. Let’s take the current system (in place for years, well before the CRB [the good old days] of soft intel.

    Totally unregulated and surely the author of many an injustice – those days when it was common for an employer to ask a mate in the Police to have a look at the records through the back door. CRB brought that information into a relationship with employment decision-making, which is what CRB is about. But it has been at the discretion of police officers as to if, and what, is released as part of an Enhanced Disclosure. It has then been left to the employer to make a decision.

    The new system should enable such information to be put to ISA and at least considered against a known and open framework. The person subject to such information should have a means of challenging that ‘information’ – currently, if you like, the barring is carried out by the employer deciding not to employ. No appeal.

    It’s worth quoting the Section on Appeals:

    4. Appeals
    (1)An individual who is included in a barred list may appeal to the Tribunal against—
    (a)a decision under paragraph 2 or 8 of Schedule 3 not to remove him from the list;
    (b)a decision under paragraph 3, 5, 9 or 11 of that Schedule to include him in the list;
    (c)a decision under paragraph 17 or 18 of that Schedule not to remove him from the list.
    (2)An appeal under subsection (1) may be made only on the grounds that IBB has made a mistake—
    (a)on any point of law;
    (b)in any finding of fact which it has made and on which the decision mentioned in that subsection was based.
    (3)For the purposes of subsection (2), the decision whether or not it is appropriate for an individual to be included in a barred list is not a question of law or fact.
    (4)An appeal under subsection (1) may be made only with the permission of the Tribunal.
    (5)Unless the Tribunal finds that IBB has made a mistake of law or fact, it must confirm the decision of IBB.
    (6)If the Tribunal finds that IBB has made such a mistake it must—
    (a)direct IBB to remove the person from the list, or
    (b)remit the matter to IBB for a new decision.
    (7)If the Tribunal remits a matter to IBB under subsection (6)(b)—
    (a)the Tribunal may set out any findings of fact which it has made (on which IBB must base its new decision); and
    (b)the person must be removed from the list until IBB makes its new decision, unless the Tribunal directs otherwise.
    (8)The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to the procedure of the Tribunal (including provision as to the award of costs by the Tribunal).
    (9)A person may appeal on a point of law to the Court of Appeal against a decision of the Tribunal.
    (10)An appeal under subsection (9) may be made only with the permission of the Court of Appeal.
    (11)In this section “the Tribunal” means the Tribunal established under section 9 of the Protection of Children Act 1999 (c. 14).

    I read 1,2 and 3 as providing an appeal on the grounds of a point of law or a finding of fact on which the decision is made. That is, if the Tribunal says the IBB messed up on the law or facts, the appeal succeeds, if not the decision stands. That is not novel. Nor is the power to award costs. Nor is the route to the Court of Appeal on a point of law. Section 2 and 3 are taken together – I read this to say that the procedure is not an appeal against the decision but an appeal on law or fact. But this can lead to a Tribunal decision to revoke the barring or order further consideration. And an appeal in the Court system taking the IBB into the same status as e.g. a local authority or planning committee as regards its place in a legal framework. What we had before WAS without appeal or any proper framework. It’s all very well to proclaim what might happen – the actual operation of ISA and the IBB will be the actual test. What was ‘underhand’ was the previous system which vetted and barred on an administrative basis. It’s a fact that people suffered injustice under that regime and people were barred for all sorts of reasons with very unclear recourse. The 2006 Act changes that.

    You have to ask – is it reasonable to identify people who may not work with children on grounds of protecting the children? If you agree that this is desirable, then the question is, who goes on it. The Act deals with that and for the first time makes it obligatory on employers to report persons whose actions have placed children in danger due to gross negligence, abuse etc. There are those referred automatically onto the ISA lists because of previous convictions of a specified nature – does anyone want to advance a libertarian argument that, after a certain period, no offence should be deemed outside the scope of the RofOAct 1974? Offences in the Schedule One category are taken forward into automatic placement on the children list. Then those whose actions in work have meant the employer has been obliged to make a referral to ISA – there has always been concern about those who ‘have retired on medical/personal grounds’ etc but whose employers in fact know the truth to be far from that (and have connived at such arrangements to avoid embarrassment e.g. with fee-paying parents- such persons have been left to migrate elsewhere. A thorny area, but I would prefer to see a system which meant that such ‘arrangements’ do not happen in the future as much as they have. ISA has to be told and has to look into it. Each is a case-by-case process, and if the person who has left has indeed done something that merits being placed on the list, it can be examined, the person has a chance to put his/her view, and a decision can be made. Now the soft intel category. All of us will feel uncomfortable on this – but it happens now, has done for years. I came across a case in 1997, football coach/referee, I was involved in a national preCRB pilot, and the police force gave me the intel (in a situation akin to an Umbrella Body with CRB) – is that acceptable? In that particular case, there had been no sharing before by the police, numerous complaints had been made over some years (which came to nothing on every occasion) and this scheme enabled such sharing. The junior league removed him from contact after 20 years of involvement. I made that decision, in effect. Is that acceptable? No contact with the man – he was made aware this was being done by the police.

    Is that preferable to ISA receiving that intel? Am I better placed to make a decision which, in effect, ended his long involvement? I take the view that it is better (a) for a constituted and regulated body like the IBB to take such decisions than me or an employer and (b) that it is done before such a person can have any further contact with children as soon after such issues arise as possible, not 20 years on. Don’t tell me this is isolated. I worked out that such a man might abuse 2 or 3 kids maybe in a year, and so over ten years, that’s 20-30. Take 100 such people and the figure is 2000-3000 abused children.

    On that one gent, 2 years on he was finally convicted on 9 out of 12 specimen charges, of serious sexual abuse. One of his ‘covers’ had been a 13 year old boy who lived with him (and into prostitution) who put the police off the scent, and the man even sued the police for harassment I’m told.

    He came out of clink Nov 2002, by the following March he was with another junior league which was not doing CRB checks (ah the FA what a bunch), and he had to be taken to court to enforce the prohibition on such work. He was then charged with further offences which came to light from 1975.

    This man constitutes a serious danger to kids. It is now obligatory for that league to refer to the VBS before taking such a person on.

    No system is free from flaw or abuse, I agree, but you have not at any time examined what has been happening up to now. Frankly, if there is a stinking fish, it’s that – kids abused and not known about for 2 decades, and people accused and barred without the safeguards of Article 6.1 of the European Convention – the worst of both aspects.

    The lesson of Soham is sharing of information, and that it is done on a systematic and just basis. IBB etc have to prove themselves, publicly – this is an advance over the hidey-in-the-corner “system” (ad hocery) which has passed as safeguarding kids.

    CRB is an employers tool re decision-making. ISA is a system of barring those who should not have access to kids via employment. Very different functions. With hindsight, if we’d thought of ISA first, I doubt we’d be inventing CRB now for these situations.

    I was there when ISA was being drafted representing part of the vol sector and very pro-active about workers rights (paid and unpaid). I did not detect any current of authoritarianism, nor of paranoia nor conspiracy etc. Indeed we wiped out the idea of any model being part of a national i/d card system day 1.

    Yes it should be closely monitored, it must be open (safeguarding kids and those referred) – but no one has yet told us what should have emerged. All I read is ‘it should not be happening at all’ – so the situation was acceptable? The good were not unjustly treated, the bad who could have been stopped were always stopped?

    Soham was the trigger for Bichard – but the underlying problems across the board are not scare-mongery, I have seen the evidence for the need. I found one David Lawrence, and there are others out there. Some are known about but still accessing kids. ISA ought to weigh what is known about each one and a decision made as to whether they may access kids via employment.

  17. James

    “u can’t have failed to notice that normal everyday interaction between adults and children is already severely damaged and that’s one of the reasons why I’ll fight vigorously against it at every opportunity.”

    I’ve been noticing that for 30 years which predates any over-reaction re paedophiles etc by a margin ….

    I’ve been involved in campaigning for the Child’s Right to Play for much of that time at national level (Fair Play) and in running a mobile Play Project.

    Children have become imprisoned not because of stranger-danger alone but mainly because we have created environments which kids share with us and which do not take their needs into account.

    There is no correlation known between the number of paedophiles and the loss of play opportunity (which is kid’s main freetime access to their neighbourhoods). Adult insistence that they can run as many cars (and park them, as importantly) as they can get away with would seem to me to have more to do with the way we lock our kids away – when we replaced mainly open streets where kids played with long rows of cars and the watchful owners that go with them did we ask the kids? No, they just lost out and we shoved them into small child zoos (play areas) and otherwise kept them caged or on a leash.

    Now we have: curfews, mosquito devices, moral panics, and kids left cheated. Fair Play just completed an FoI survey of 50 local authorities to see what they do for children’s play and leisure against overall cultural spend. If a community has say 17% under 15, reasonable to ask if they get such a share of such expenditure? Maybe even more? You’re having an african (giraffe). Many areas, you’re lucky to see 12%.

    We are so busy chasing adult concerns – work, cars, our own leisure – that our kids are losing out. Our process of switching off from our kids and losing their trust have gone hand in hand. Don’t blame paedos and ISA for what adults share common blame in.

    We have taken their play space – real and figurative – and left them a barren waste of shabby community.

    • Jan, I don’t agree there’s any correlation between the apparent lack of places for children to play and this clear and definite demise in ordinary interect between children and their wider communties. Indeed, a National Trust survey just last month concluded that many parents are denying their children the chance to play outside, not because there isn’t anywhere for them to play but because of fears for their safety.

      I’m not talking about parents being too busy to do things with their kids, I’m talking about the fact that unless it’s yours – adults rarely even give eye-contact to a child these days – let alone speak to them. We have all become petrified of everyday normal interaction. We’re all terrified that our motives will be questioned even if we just talk to a child.

      We shouldn’t forget the shocking story a few years ago of little Abigail who escaped from her nursery school. A man spotted her but didn’t go back to help for fear of being accused of abducting her. She drowned in a pond a few minutes later.

      This stranger danger thing is just so exaggerated that we’re raising an entire generation of kids who are more or less hard wired to mistrust other adults by default – and this filthy vetting culture is the the nub of the problem.

      The Independent Safeguarding Authority will have extraordinary powers which will be far reaching. Fundamentally, they create a society of fear and mistrust which will be totally and utterly disproportionate in relation to any actual risks posed.

      We see evidence of this sad increase in mistrust all the time. A survey amongst professionals on Teacher TV recently concluded that more than two in five said they were afraid to be alone in a room with a pupil in case they were falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour and that’s all born out of this pervasive paranoia which just has to stop.

      The bottom line is – the CRB and the ISA can’t and won’t stop people abusing children, but this hyper-vetting culture will have far wider implications which in the long term will cause more damage to society as whole than the high profile case which sparked all this.

  18. We are so busy chasing adult concerns – work, cars, our own leisure – that our kids are losing out. Our process of switching off from our kids and losing their trust have gone hand in hand. Don’t blame paedos and ISA for what adults share common blame in.

    We have taken their play space – real and figurative – and left them a barren waste of shabby community.

    I don’t think you understand the point he was trying to make – you’re actually reiterating his point, but this is where it leads: to start out with a ‘shabby community’ which we’re responsible for (which I think is only a partly meaningful analysis), and then make it 10x worse by implementing the ISA is lunacy, and it should be fought against. That’s what he was trying to say. You’re half way there yourself.

  19. @ Jan – it’s not normal practice to respond to a post with a full essay, so I’m only going to take this bit for now:

    The lesson of Soham is sharing of information, and that it is done on a systematic and just basis. IBB etc have to prove themselves, publicly – this is an advance over the hidey-in-the-corner “system” (ad hocery) which has passed as safeguarding kids.

    It is indeed. And if you think about it this is what makes the ISA entirely redundant. If sharing of information and intelligence by local government agencies were done competently even now, there would be no political need for the ISA. Sadly though we have Baby Peter and the child whose death was announced this morning – also strangely not helped by the ISA I might add…unless the decision is taken to vet prospective parents. Is that where the ISA logically must lead?

    CRB is an employers tool re decision-making. ISA is a system of barring those who should not have access to kids via employment. Very different functions. With hindsight, if we’d thought of ISA first, I doubt we’d be inventing CRB now for these situations.

    ‘Should not have access to kids via employment’ eh? Says who? What makes the administrators at the ISA an authority on the ‘should’? Because you’re not just talking about kids, are you? Who vets the ISA administrators? The word ‘should’ in such a context is unimaginably dangerous, is open to abuse, and is already being abused.

    I was there when ISA was being drafted representing part of the vol sector and very pro-active about workers rights (paid and unpaid). I did not detect any current of authoritarianism, nor of paranoia nor conspiracy etc. Indeed we wiped out the idea of any model being part of a national i/d card system day 1.

    Then you clearly didn’t understand that such a system doesn’t have to be authoritarian in its inception. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the RIPA legislation as prime examples were no doubt not conceived to be authoritarian, but that’s what they became. The same is true of the ISA – give people arbitrary and unaccountable powers and they will use them. Someone should have been involved instructing you people how systems work, or at least given you all a crash course in Foucault.

  20. Following right in your footsteps Cosmodaddy! As ever, we seem to agree!

    Until I’ve digested the latest posts properly, and checked my facts on a few points, I can only reiterate what I’ve said before about effective legislation already being in place (see my original post on this thread).

    But, off the top of my head…

    Since the Soham inquiry etc. the attention paid by police and others tasked with child protection investigations has greatly intensified. There are now more investigations than ever before into suspected abuse. During (and since) operation Ore, new laws have been drafted, and amendments included that are designed to tighten up the child protection service.

    So, where does that leave us? Well… taking operation Ore as an example, it has successfully identified some truly disgusting individuals. But, it has also highlighted the dangers of jumping on soft intelligence, and not considering all the facts (some credt card details handed to UK police by the FBI have now proved to be obtained through identity theft) there are an increasing number of people that are now in a position (after careers, families, marriages etc. have been ruined) to challenge the charges that were bought against them. I feel that this will only serve to further discredit the whole child protection framework.

    The sad fact is that no matter how much legislation is drafted, and no matter how many people are barred from working with kids, there will ALWAYS be another baby Peter, Victoria Climbie or Jessica Chapman. Adding legislation piece-meal is not the answer.

    If there is going to be an agency that ruins peoples lives so completely by barring them from working with children or vulnerable adults (not just a job, but their vocation in many cases) it needs to have a damned good reason for doing so. To ascertain this reason, it has to be rigorous and fair. I think that this can only be achieved if it examines its ‘evidence’ to a standard beyond all reasonable doubt.

  21. … Just to be clear; none of that last post means that I am endorsing the existance of the ISA in any way!

  22. Jan

    Consider this case, where an individual lost his voluntary position as a rugby coach due to an allegation that turned out to be about someone completely different, yet the Chief Constable concerned lost the file and disclosed on the basis of “may be relevant”.

    http://headoflegal.blogspot.com/2008/11/s-v-chief-constable-of-west-mercia-and.html

    This has taken 5 years and a legal process going as far as Judicial Review to enforce common sense.

    How many more will give up and just abandon their work with Youth? Personally, I would not touch such a voluntary position with a bargepole.

    The problem here is the principle of “guilty until proven innocent” damaging the innocent, and “punishment by default”, while maintaining loudly that any level of collateral damage is acceptable “becuase we have to protect the children”.

    These approaches seem to be woven even more deeply into the new system than the old.

    In the end this system will eat itself, but how much damage will be done in the meantime?

    It is going to be a godawful mess.

  23. >This has taken 5 years and a legal process going as far as Judicial Review to enforce common sense.

    I suppose that – even worse – that type of allegation is virtually impossible to disprove unless you are very very lucky, so most people wouldn’t even stand a chance.

  24. This is an extremely interesting debate. I have a couple of additional points to throw in.

    1. One of the reasons that some people are concerned about the risks involved with allegations is homophobia. Gay men know that the myths about them and kids run deep and persist and that some people will use them against them. I would be concerned that this concern becomes discounted or isn’t taken into account. Has the ISA or the schemes devisers put in place any mechanism to review operations in this light? Presumably the equality bill will apply and they will have to?

    2. When I lived in Australia and worked with aboriginal people I became aware of the most horrific abuse happening in Sydney. It was being conducted by very powerful men. When it started to be investigated, by reporters aided by activists and community workers, it ended up focusing on gay men and did become a witch hunt. So, relating to point one, and because I also know from the 80s that such abuse by powerful men happened in the UK, what role is such a new agency going to play in countering homophobia in such cases and in helping those trying to prosecute the powerful?

  25. @Matt Wardman.
    Alas, you’re spot on! It would seem that some people aren’t bothered about collateral damage…. I think it would be very different if it was “them and theirs”.

    There’s a very intresting juxtaposition when you consider that those who experience a large proportion the fallout from this collateral damage are often the children of the falsely/maliciously accused…

    @Paul Canning.

    Good point. I did read somewhere in one of the ISA policy documents that: “…the sexuality of the person under investigation will never be used as a basis for a barring decision”.

    The ISA felt the need to embolden that sentence in the document.

    Although “…as the basis of a decision” worries me. By my interpretation, it suggests that someone’s not going to be put on the barred list through being gay alone, but worryingly, I think it does suggest that if deemed relevant, a person’s sexuality could be considered and be one of the nails in your barred coffin!

    What a mess!

    I sincerely hope that the ISA are bound by the equality bill, but looking at it; they don’t immediately fall into any of the relevant categories… unless for the purposes of the equality bill, they fall under the umberella of a “government department”… although, that would then raise significant questions of the true nature of the ISA’s independence!

    Interestingly, on ALL paperwork I have recieved from the ISA, they state that they are in no way connected to or influenced by government and they are entirely independent. Yet, they are funded by the Home Office and other government departments.. . A quango at best, but I get the feeling that they may be shouting a little too loud about their ‘independence’!

  26. James
    I don’t agree there’s any correlation between the apparent lack of places for children to play and this clear and definite demise in ordinary interect between children and their wider communties. Indeed, a National Trust survey just last month concluded that many parents are denying their children the chance to play outside, not because there isn’t anywhere for them to play but because of fears for their safety.

    I’ve been involved in the issue of Play for 3 decades, about the time period covered by surveys which show quite clearly that children’s play opportunities have diminished markedly throughout that time. There are other, at least equally contributory factors to this apart from fear of strangers/abduction – the rise and rise of the motorist and the god-given right to park and drive where-ever one wishes, including much of the informal street scene that constituted the ‘outdoor play we used to do when we were kids”. Funnily enough, there appears to be US research which shows a correlation between traffic density and speed and degree of stranger fear – anecdotal, I’ve not seen it, but if true, maybe that tells us something about our priorities.

    Some will say our roads are safer – this is juts not true. What we have done is to protect children from ever-increasing traffic by keeping them in.

    I am also sure that there is an untold story about the degree of child hostility on the part of many adults, especially to them playing out. Instead the media concentrates on unruly kids – but I know from experience with my own kids and others just how much children are intimidated and harassed by some adults. The parents who contact us say much the same. But no one wants to know about that. And sadly many parents react by keeping their kids in.

    We can blame fear of paedophiles for children not being allowed out but these other factors have been around longer than any hysteria about stranger danger and provide a better match for the longer-term decline in children playing outside. I also add in the commercialisation of Play where I worry that we are seeing the rise of spectator children – another issue for another day. Or of virtual play ….

    In any case, the issue about ISA etc is not one about children not being allowed out informally, it relates to situations where children attend activities organised for them by adults who are mainly not their parents. Increased childcare, for example, has widened that accessibility, and you then add in all the other staffed activities for children – school, sporting, cultural, play, care etc etc.

    The Department of the Bleeding Obvious: those who seek to access children for such reasons will go to situations where there is no child protection good practice – no checks, no policies, no training etc etc. The situation which obtained widespread in the UK until Dunblane.

    No voluntary bodies could access criminal records, there was no sharing etc. Hence the CRB. But that did not oblige employers to make checks, which is one of the findings of Bichard.

    You may have noticed that a private members Bill was passed as the Child Protection Act 1999 which obliged childcare employers to make checks against a new List POCAL and List 99 and to report bad conduct. I saw no one raise a whisper about it, yet it’s been law since then, run by ministerial fiat, and anything listing and banning that has happened up to now has come via that process since that time.

    ISA has had nothing to do with those decisions. ISA has now taken over the running of those lists and their migration to the new situation and a new framework.

    It seems agreed that mistakes occur and thus sharing does not happen as it should. Sorry about that, 2 kids dead = Soham. Well sorry about all your concerns but whilst we would be working to improve the CRB system, how many more killed or traumatised because of mistakes?

    Bichard did not recommend only that we improve the current system, he proposed something additional. Why if simply operating the current system would be enough, as is being claimed? Because the current system does not oblige employers to make checks (and let’s not confuse the requirements of Ofsted registration because these do not cover all activities, there are many outside that, and we predicted that the limited scope of the above 1999 Act would prove the need for widening to all areas of activity, a point proven by Bichard’s recommendation to set up a register such as ISA.)

    The new system demands employers make the checks and, again arising from Bichard, that they will be updated if someone’s status changes, and employers will be notified. This is the fundamental difference – CRB is, as I’ve said, an employers tool, but ISA can ensure that someone will not be employed.

    If that seems unpalatable, you have 2 alternatives – the employer refuses to employ on the basis of CRB disclosure (which can include soft intel) or the person is not checked at all because the employer doesn’t have such a policy (lawful in many areas of employment where there are children).

    Let’s examine soft intel. CRB reports this appears on about 0.3% of disclosures. That’s around 55,000 I think since they started. Up to now, this has meant that being released to RBs/UBs who pass on the disclosures to the employers who make the decision. Certainly that is a potential source of worry about injustice.

    So the new system refers that intel to ISA who subject it to a procedure, with representation and investigation, and appeal. I cannot see why none of you can see that this constitutes a better approach. Probably safer?

    I hope you will agree that there are people who want to access children for criminal reasons? How many, we don’t know. We do know those who have a conviction and are barred by statute usually for life – it would be interesting to know what proportion of ISAs child list these will constitute. Then those who are from the 2 lists 99 and POCAL. How many of these are as a result of employer referral and how many because of soft intel? I’ll make a guess that a majority will be those convicted and barred as a result of conviction, but I may be wrong.

    Soft intel – so what do we do when the police and others have information about a person of such a nature? Should a prospective employer know and who should tell? Me, in an Umbrella CRB body (that’s one route). I don’t actually feel comfortable with that, I’ve been there. So David Lawrence justified the police releasing soft intel to me – now twice convicted but he wasn’t at the time by two years almost. Now it was not my role to make the employment decision (he was a volunteer but the principle is identical, access to children), it was the junior soccer league’s. I had no framework of practice or regulation so on what basis was it safe for me to speak to them? In my case, I simply advised them in effect to risk assess. He may or may not have been as described by the police to me, and I could not tell them the detail of the police letter – but with due respect to him, it was the children we had to consider first. My advice was that they consider the risk, speak to him, but in the end ask themselves whether, this side of certainty that he was OK, he could continue such access. Their solution was to suspend Lawrence on the grounds that the police had raised serous concerns and that they would need agreement between him and the police that concerns were resolved.

    I am not sure if you have taken on board what effect this had within the league on people who were his colleagues and who were left to make that decision. I will argue that, indeed, it is not at all appropriate for them to be doing so, on precisely the grounds you argue against ISA. Fact, this sort of process has been going on for a long, but in the hands of people not qualified to make such judgements, and with no appeal at all.

    Is ISA better qualified to deal with soft intel? That is the question perhaps other than, should soft intel be allowed at all? But on that, let me ask, had the league made a perfectly lawful decision to have faith in their colleague of 20 years standing and then he had been jailed a further 2 years down the line …. ?

    The ISA version of this episode would be: Lawrence applies to ISA for registration, the police provide the soft intel (no other record) and ISA investigates, Lawrence has right of representation, and the VBB makes a decision, maybe to bar on the basis of the soft intel.

    We’re left with 3 choices: no use of soft intel ever, the current system where CRB tells the employer there is a concern, or ISA?

    Can you honestly tell me that civil liberty concerns for the employee must rule out use of soft intel, or we have the current system which I have seen is deeply flawed? If you say yes to either, then what happens when a David Lawrence shows the soft intel was soundly based? You cannot dodge around this.

    The brother of a boy abused on a soccer trip to the Isle of Man in 1975 wrote to me to tell me of DLs appearance in another junior league after his release in 2002 – a harrowing letter about a man whose brother lives a destroyed life, now in his mid 30s. It is certain that Lawrence had intent to return to opportunity, and he chose a situation where checks were not made proving the essential point about such guys – they seek opportunity, the more unregulated the better.

    Ten years ago, a social worker could tell me that she noticed one day a card advert in a local shop for a new junior soccer team, to meet the next Saturday am at a local rec. She recognised the number as she had official knowledge of the man as a convicted paedophile with a string of convictions against boys. She turned up at the field and saw parents just dropping their sons, aged 7-11, off without making contact with the nice, public spirited man. She actually got angry, told the parents one of whom protested he didn’t know – so she asked him for the keys of his car. Why? Because I want to run a public activity which will involve access to your car. Don’t be daft, no one would let you do that, I don’t know who you are. But you’d just leave your son with a total stranger….

    Would that happen today? Not sure as my grandson says. Maybe the alleged child protection overkill would now mean they’d all demand to see his CRB certificate? Or as the Man City Chairman said when he was told by a Channel 4 expose that his club had allowed Barry Bennell involvement with junior soccer players, a serial paedophile who god knows bedded how many boys in his home which was like a luxury youth centre – “Who’d have thought it, football’s such a manly game”.

    I noted a reference to Spiked – run by accolytes of Mr Ferudi, former revolutionary marxist, now perhaps converted to the market, sage on all things including what I gather he calls the child protection (presumably like the race relations industry, the human rights industry and similar bete noir of the Daily Mail).

    Now the comments about ISA not being independent …. the Government appoints all sorts of bodies with a quasi-judicial basis … also judges. I would guess that they would all be pretty incensed by such claims that they are all puppets. Judges get paid by the state too. As a Councillor I used to sit on the Licencing Committee with its quasi-judicial and non-party basis – we were accused of being the council’s lackeys because of our expenses, usually by Nimbys who had personal axes to grind – I used to give them a sharp rebuff that we were all, Lab, Tory, Lib Dem and Ind, independent of anything bar the statutes on which licencing was based. Sorry, a cheap claim. I am sure they will make errors – I hope these err on the side of caution for the child, not on the history of failure to act and to share which led to deaths, rape/assault and lifetimes of misery for many kids.

  27. >It seems agreed that mistakes occur and thus sharing does not happen as it should. Sorry about that, 2 kids dead = Soham. Well sorry about all your concerns but whilst we would be working to improve the CRB system, how many more killed or traumatised because of mistakes?

    Hard questions. I agree. I think there is a balance to be struck and the ISA has it comprehensively in the wrong place. Massively reported cases where there was national hysteria are absolutely the wrong place to start.

    A few hard questions of my own:

    How many children are you willing to have denied access to play due to the exclusion of volunteers in order to prevent one crime? When we get some sort of checking setup for relationships later (as has been mooted), how many children are you willing to have denied parents, and how many families are you willing to prevent forming, in order to prevent one crime?

    We all know that “stranger danger” is responsible for a small minority of abuse. How, then, can you justify this regime not being applied to parents and relatives – where a large majority of abuse has its source?

    >Let’s examine soft intel. CRB reports this appears on about 0.3% of disclosures. That’s around 55,000 I think since they started. Up to now, this has meant that being released to RBs/UBs who pass on the disclosures to the employers who make the decision. Certainly that is a potential source of worry about injustice.

    How will you guarantee and monitor the quality of the “soft intel”? And what happens in 20 years time when the database of gossip has become a much bigger overhang? How will it be weeded? How do we know that a teenage fumble reported to the police by outraged parents defending their son/daughter won’t kill a career 10 years later?

    When draconian action results from “soft intel” so unreliable that it was not even deemed worthy of investigation, never mind action, at the point when it was received by the police or later stated to be wrong by the person providing it, that intel clearly cannot be used. Yet it is used, and the systems are set up such that it cannot be withdrawn.

    AIUI the system as implemented, whether CRB or ISA (and I’m clear that I don’t know all the ins and outs), mandates (or effectively mandates due to our culture around this issue) draconian action on such a basis.

    Finally, Jan, you haven’t addressed the simple unreliability of large databases run by this Govt. Simple assertion that the process is improved does not address that concern. You want a random example? The SORN (Statutory of Road Notification) database sent out 1 million fines in its first 3-4 years which had to be withdrawn because they were wrong.

    How do you know that the ISA setup will be reliable, when we know that the smaller CRB scheme before has been shown not to be so? I think that if you take your 55,000 and multiply it by the increased numbers of people, and the increased numbers of checks over decades, you see the problem that we are facing here. In the end this thing will eat itself, but at a huge cost to society.

    Finally, how will you prevent malicious allegations, or gossipy complaints based on neighbourhood feuds – and how will you screen them out after 10 years? These happen all the time, and seem to come into the category of “soft intel”.

    • Matt said –

      “Finally, Jan, you haven’t addressed the simple unreliability of large databases run by this Govt. Simple assertion that the process is improved does not address that concern. You want a random example? The SORN”

      And the common denominator – Capita – the outsourcing company whose former chief executive, Rod Aldridge, was a lifelong Labour supporter and friend of Tony Blair. However, the outsourcing company more notable for errors and slackness. But they still win contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds. The CRB being just one. And guess what? They still screw things up to the point of nausea.

  28. Jan

    The nub of my anti-ISA stance is that it was born out of a wave of pervert paranoia and is completely disproportionate in relation to any actual risks posed. Furthermore, this obsession with one or two highly publicised cases is doing our kids a vile disservice as opposed to protecting them. If you applied the same level of ferocity to say warning our children that they are far more likely to be stabbed in the park by one of their school mates than they are murdered by an adult pervert I think I’d be far more on your side.

  29. Came accross this quite interesting article…. the numbers involved are scary!

    http://www.practicalethicsnews.com/practicalethics/2009/07/the-independent-safeguarding-authority.html

    …have a read and see what you think, any comments?

  30. It’s an impressive article, which I think addresses the issues quite well. There indeed is a trade off the government has clearly decided on, between the imperative of protection and the likelihood of false positives and the damage they’ll cause. Jan Cosgrove has out and out said he’s indifferent to the false positives, which given the level of his involvement in the lead up to the new regime (allegedly) makes me even more alarmed about where the ISA is leading us.

  31. Every data base set up by this Government has produced at best dodgy statistics. I don’t trust any of them.

  32. If every allegation re children was made into ‘soft intel’ then we’d have a paper shortage. The police have carried out this process of collating information on issues for a very long time, decades indeed. It’s where a pattern may be emerging that soft intel becomes relevant. Given the persistent nature of paedophilia, and its inherent opportunism, this is the area of child abuse which may well yield long-term patterns – as with David Lawrence.

    Is anyone saying, for example, that under the pilot VOCS project I mentioned before that I should not have been contacted by the police with that information? After all, they told me they had investigated him numerous occasions, prosecutions had either not materialised or had been dropped, and indeed he had sued them. A real case of the misuse of soft intel …. And on that basis I made a decision to contact the local group which then removed him from contact. Grossly unfair … except that 2 years on the case that nails him is completed and he serves time. Over-zealous use of doubtful information? You can’t be wise after the event – “well, he WAS a paedophile” – not proven until it was and a man with 20 years service in a community body turfed out on police say-so.

    Would you rather this sort of process continued (as with CRB) with the role of judge jury and executioner being left to people like me scattered around the country with no framework whatsoever to which we can refer? I think ISA/VBB offers a route with more safeguards for the “softly” accused than exist up to now. The police send ISA their concerns and they have to tell the person concerned and s/he has certain rights which have not existed clearly before. I would have thought the banned volunteer/employee situation would be under better scrutiny than the laissez faire system which has passed muster till now.

    How many volunteers denied opportunity to work in play settings? I think CRB surveyed this last year and found that CRB checks do not deter volunteering – obviously there are some who will be deterred but it’s not a major problem. As the ISA process will be dovetailed into a one-stop application and certificate, I don’t see the likelihood as great. The new CRB form which will enable this is actually simpler than the current one. I have seen it.

    Fair Play did its own survey, as to whether CRB may make employers less careful – http://www.fairplayforchildren.org/pdf/1238625306.pdf

    The cost will be an issue – from our perspective, this is a legitimate cost of recruitment and employment. No one questions the cost of e.g. adequate fire safety precautions or other H&S requirements – and many of these did not exist years back and have had to be taken on board by employers as they have been added. So why is this different? What I would worry about is the habit of making staff and employees pay for their own checks, an appalling practice by skanky employers.

    “Jan Cosgrove has out and out said he’s indifferent to the false positives…” No where have I said any such thing. Indeed I am claiming the new system should offer better safeguards against this. What I am inclined to say, from the evidence of what is being said, is that some contributors appear not to be willing to accept the idea that, with soft intel, there can be “true positives” and that is the key area which the traditional criminal justice system cannot address until after a conviction. Soham: Ian Huntley – previous conviction = no; soft intel = yes; crb system showed flaws=yes; Bichard recommends list of banned persons = yes. Why? So that a Huntley situation is less likely – any human system can fail, so the trick is to put in further safeguards and precautions – both for the kids and for those who work with them.

  33. Jan, you are absolutely obsessed with a crime which is serious but also very negligible. When is it ever going to sink in that the ISA, which you champion so vigorously, will be damaging, excessive and will not stop paedophiles having access to children.

  34. Jan,

    I agree that someone in your position in wholly unsuitable to make a judgement on someone else as to their suitability for a position, based on CRB information alone. Not least, because you will have no idea as to the background of the information that appears on someone’s enhanced CRB disclosure and therefore the process that the ‘accused’ person has undergone to reach a point where the police have decided upon the outcome they have (I’m assuming for the rest of this post that no charges were brought against the individual accused, because the allegations were unfounded). By disclosing information on the CRB form, the police are essentially passing the buck onto you, the employer (paid or voluntary work being the same), it’s nothing other than their hanging someone out to dry, whilst the police cover their back.

    Unfortunately, I feel that the voluntary position you occupy has somewhat addled your viewpoint in thinking that everyine who comes into contact with the police for child protection issues has done something wrong. It has been shown time and again that abuse DOES NOT occur on the scale that the media and politicians would have us, the general public believe.

    If the estimates in the link I posted yesterday are even remotely true, that means (using their ‘optimistic’ numbers) that 91% of people considered for ‘discretionary barring’ are on the database through false positive identification of a risk that does not exist. This is enough in itself to make the existance of the ISA seriously questionable.

    Now going back to something you mention in relation to the CRB… you say that you would not feel comfortable making a decision based on information that is released on the CRB… so why do the police release it? Especially now the ISA is coming online? Surely if these authorities (the police and the ISA) had any faith in what they were doing, there would be no need for such release…. what an uncomfortable position to put you in. Where would you stand then, in the case of the person falsely accused? The police have released information that shows an accusation was made, but not followed by a prosecution (for whatever reason) – you will see on the CRB form an entry under non-conviction information, showing what the arrest was for and that no further action was taken – you won’t see why. Coupled with this, the ISA did not bar the individual (thus allowing the person ‘accused’ to work with children)… surely it is now harder for you to reach a decision as to suitability, and you are therefore surely going to say ‘no’ to the position applied for by that individual… after all, this is all about covering your back; sorry… minimising risk (to whom, I wonder… yourself, or children?)

    And what of the privacy of the individual concerned… is it not enough that they have been scrutinised by both the Police and the ISA… and now face a third grilling by someone in your position? Someone who knows nothing of the background, the ISA investigation etc….

    Even more galling for that person, is that there is no recourse or appeal to any ’employment’ decision you may make? This is one thing in a voluntary situation (in many cases, it actually means the person ‘accused’ doesn’t have to give up their free time), but what of paid employment positions? Particularly teachers, doctors and nurses (the groups who suffer most from false allegations).

    At what point will you accept that this person does not pose a risk? Even more importantly, how long will the falsely accused have to wait in order to begin properly rebuilding their life and getting on with things? At the moment, they will never be free of this scurge, imposed by someone else, for whatever reason (either malicious, or a well intentioned mistake).

    Also, when it becomes apparent that the person accused has not done anything wrong, at what point would you climb down and admit that the viewpoint you hold is wrong, however well-intentioned? After all the money spent on police and ISA investigations, that’s a hard thing to do.

    In fact, I venture that the viewpoint you hold will actually be one of the most damaging aspects of the ISA. That is, people who are covering their own back, at the expense of others so that blame can be sidestepped *if* the person in question should subsequently be convicted of an offence.

    In parts of your posts, you place significant weight in the justice system of this country, yet you seem to forget the one golden rule “innocent until proven guilty”. You can’t have piecemeal justice where this mantra applies in some situations but not others. I abhor child abuse, but I stand by my previous statement that I would rather one child be harmed than 10,000 adults have their lives ruined by a weak and ineffective process.

    With regard to child protection, people who subscribe to paedo-paranoia (like yourself, seemingly), who *think* they are doing the right thing will do untold damage to both children and innocent adults… and at the moment, get away with it.

    Child abuse is abhorrent… no-one is saying otherwise, but to needlessly ruin the lives of (an optimistic) 10,000 innocent adults is just as abhorrent.

    On the back of that, I don’t know what the answer to the problem is, all I know is that ruining the lives of untold innocent adults for the ISA to be shown not to be the answer in a few years time, is certainly not the way forward, especially when simple statistics can show that the ISA will fail, and how.

    Mr. Cosgrove, how would you feel, if you were one of those 10,000 false positives, knowing that some really dangerous people had been missed by the system that trapped you??

  35. Rock-bottom. You seem to agree with me that the current system of soft intel going to lead counter-signatories leaves something to be desired. It is not ISA that will operate that way, but CRB does and indeed what preceded that. CRB was created mainly to allow employers to have access to records of criminal convictions, the soft intel bit, I think, sort of popped its head up during the setting-up process of CRB as something which existed and was entirely unregulated activity by police forces until then.

    What CRB did was to pass that practice on and to accept that those advising the making of appointments from a child protection viewpoint should be the recipients of that information from the police directly. It is controlled in some degree but, you are right, there is no consideration given let alone any framework for good practice and sharing of experience.

    It’s too early to say about ISA but my view is that the soft intel provision should be reviewed in the light of ISA’s experience. The problem for me is that CRB Enhanced Disclosures give the UB/RB all previous conviction information including what is not maybe relevant to child protection. That could include soft intel, but I have said already that police use collated information, cross-ref different streams of info. I may stand corrected but I doubt that every such single one-off allegation is used for soft intel purposes.

    I think you will find the police will say that they get more such allegations than we can imagine and most remain just that and would not form the basis for soft intel. It needs more than that.

    But ISA should operate to remove that unsatisfactory handling of soft intel. I will certainly watch that aspect. Dunblane Report – found that soft intel was not shared. Bichard likewise. CRB did not address it, ISA ought to and I will raise this.

    Had ISA come first after Dunblane would we need CRB to do this job? (That’s a separate question from employers generally wanting to know about their prospective employees history, e.g. financial probity et al.) I rather think that Enhanced Disclosures would have been redundant and employers would not have had to even consider such issues as the person would have been banned or not, simple.

    Maybe the future might be that the Basic Disclosure (obtained by the applicant) would be what employers would see – thus Employment of Ex-Offenders better served) but where children/ vulnerable adults concerned, mandatory to consult their lists and employers told go/no go.

    10,000 adults unfairly listed by ISA? Or 1o,000 adults unfairly the target of current practices? Fundamentally different questions. ISA has a framework, a charter and accountability. Once the police release such information under the current system, there is absolutely none. Apart from non-disclosure beyond those making the employment decision, there is no guidance, no good practice, so injustice could well have occurred.

    But in the case of David Lawrence it did not. Estimates are being used about injustice. How many kids does an undetected paedophile access over say 20 years? Maybe an average of 2 to 3 a year? Who knows, they’re not telling – and nor are the kids, over decades. That is becoming clear.

    Lawrence, convicted on 9 charges, different kids. But then on another he did not ‘ask to be taken into account’ before. That’s 10. But how many not admitted? What factor? 2? 4? It may go in some cases as high as 300 kids over 3 decades. Or low. An average? 10? 20?

    So, can you imagine, say, 1000 such people (out of 60 million) who have access to kids and not yet convicted? Maybe 10,000, 20,000 kids. So the figures are not the negligible amount proffered in this exchange.

    Clinton might have said, re opportunism by paedophiles “It’s the unchecked access, stupid”. Lawrence is not a paedo orphan, there’s more. I don’t know how many, nor do you.

    With Lawrence, given he was not convicted, I ask participants in this exchange to answer me this: should soft intel on him have gone out from the police to a CRB/VOCS lead countersignatory to pass on advice in such way as he thought fit to the organisation where Lawrence had been a respected member for 2 decades or more?

    I want a specific answer on that. And on whether an ISA system would be preferable, or indeed, if you think no system of soft intel inclusion would be justified. So what would have been done with that soft intel? Left another 2 years, 10 years before conviction, if ever? Remember, the police had their concerns for quite a few years before that soft intel sharing – because there was no system beforehand where they could share it legally. Do you want to go back to those Good Old Days when the police gave an off-the-record tip-off guv? Which went on all the time, not just in such cases.

    Back-covering. You will find me totally contemptuous of such an approach. Let’s take the child protection ‘givens’ we read (quite often in things like grant conditions) such as not taking photos of kids because of the alleged risk. Crap and nonsense, such people have far easier ways to access such images even cute pics. I would say snap away don’t lock up our children or their images.

    Or kids sitting on your lap if you are working with them in e.g. play or care situations, Look if a kid wants to cuddle up, fine, it’s natural, if that’s what a kid initiates. There’s a time and a place. But what about picking kids up? My advice – don’t if you want to avoid becoming a carry-donkey and getting back strain. Also, don’t initiate, unless it’s obvious the kid needs a cuddle. All this is common sense and good practice, and not back-protecting.

    I do find myself bemused: Unfortunately, I feel that the voluntary position you occupy has somewhat addled your viewpoint in thinking that everyine who comes into contact with the police for child protection issues has done something wrong. I do not remotely think that.

    But nor do I make your equation 1 abused kid justified to save 10,000 false allegations. It’s a non-sequitur. One abused kid will never mean that. The two aims – protecting kids and employees who are both innocent – are not incompatible. We’d all agree surely that the real issue is to find who is really a threat. Does soft intel have a role in that?

    I rather feel that the criminal justice approach to paedophilia may be the issue. Should it be a crime? Yes. Why? I will give an analogy?

    If paedophilia was also a recognised medical disorder and treated on that basis, how would that relate to their employment? Or let’s say that having a disease (say swine flu) was illegal if you attempted to give it to someone vulnerable. ‘Swinefluaphile’. Would the criminal justice system help or hinder in such a case? Previous conviction = passed on swine flu knowingly. Police caution = being in a situation where you could have passed it on? Soft intel? Seen breathing in a public place? Invited 2 kids into his flat and showed them videos about swine flu?

    Is it time to look at paedophila in a new light, so that voluntarily seeking help if you are one before you commit a crime is an option. Patient confidentiality but shared with ISA if agreed.

    A whole shift of climate I guess but could that lead to both objectives above being better served/fulfilled? Where would soft intel sit in that situation? That is not then a matter of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ but of shared medical information?

    I don’t think the answer lies in the general tenor of this debate, however, as I feel that the interests of individual children are being downplayed. With both them and injustice to employees we talk surely about the individual not how many cases? You all I think overestimate the problem re children. The recent Irish report into the priesthood reveals what happens when it’s not properly regulated. And who knows about Jersey?

    James I won’t respond to you as we have had our conversation in a separate blog. I am not an expert. Full Stop.

    And the rest of you, you demean your position if you get personal and abusive. You talk about rights so I have the right not to be abused by any of you. Please bear that in mind.

  36. Jan:

    ISA has a framework, a charter and accountability.

    It has almost no accountability whatsoever. You’ve complained that the previous arrangements where barring decisions were essentially the responsibility of the Secretary of State. Well at least he/she is accountable! The ISA can only successfully be challenged if the unfairly ‘barred’ person can prove that it made a faulty decision in fact or law. Given the size and arbitrary nature of the powers given to the agency, it’s worth noting that the judgments of the unaccountable administrators can’t be challenged. It makes the system appear valid – guaranteeing false positives. It’s iniquitous and has to be stopped.

    I don’t think the answer lies in the general tenor of this debate, however, as I feel that the interests of individual children are being downplayed.

    You have to understand (and I don’t understand why you don’t) that opposition to the ISA does not mean not supporting the protection of children. Those of us on this thread and the others who have opposed your viewpoint on the ‘authority’ have done so in the belief that by its nature it will a) fail to protect children b) destroy numerous lives in the process because it’s a sledgehammer trying to crack a nut and c) have significant, detrimental social outcomes which in the zeal to set it up weren’t envisaged.

    There are existing systems which are supposed to successfully protect children, and our public services must be properly managed and reformed to make sure they do. Protecting children and ‘vulnerable’ people means allowing local and community workers the discretion to make their own judgments, and public services working together rather than what they mostly currently do; an expensive, unaccountable bureaucracy won’t work.

    The ISA must be abolished now.

  37. @ Cosmo

    “You have to understand (and I don’t understand why you don’t) that opposition to the ISA does not mean not supporting the protection of children. Those of us on this thread and the others who have opposed your viewpoint on the ‘authority’ have done so in the belief that by its nature it will a) fail to protect children b) destroy numerous lives in the process because it’s a sledgehammer trying to crack a nut and c) have significant, detrimental social outcomes which in the zeal to set it up weren’t envisaged”.

    Spot on!

    I hate the fact that those of us who oppose the ISA are branded as not caring about child protection by default.

  38. I also fail to understand this binary argument, that we either have the ISA dealing with non-CRB related intelligence/information or it gets ignored and vulnerable children and other groups get put at risk. I’m right, I know, in saying that our public services are supposed to talk all the time about people whom they believe pose risks to vulnerable people. The police are allowed to monitor people’s conduct long after convictions and the completion of sentences for example – why shouldn’t they be if they believe someone conceivably poses a risk to anyone in society. The ISA is then needed for what purpose exactly?

    We have a court system which keeps inaccurate records and rarely knows where they are. We have local police services who regularly lose records and lose track of people they’re supposed to be keeping an eye on. We have probation services which lose track of dangerous men who then go straight on to commit the most horrific murders. This should be at the forefront of the debate about the ISA and why it’s even needed.

    Jan – I’d like your thoughts on this argument please, not to mention anyone else’s who reads this thread.

  39. Cosmodaddy

    You concede the police are allowed to monitor conduct long after convictions. What they are not allowed to do is contact an employer to inform that the employee they have has a S1 conviction. The employee is breaking the law, so they can arrest him/seek a restraining order on that basis – ONCE he is employed there. Chances are, this may not come to light for a while. The ISA system obliges an employer to check against the relevant list prior to engagement.

    You say the public authorities are supposed to talk all the time. True, but they don’t. That is a weakness in the system, and so ISA inserts a further safeguard. Remember not all employers are public bodies and there is no obligation on a local authority to liaise with every single local charity which may be employing people in sensitive employment to prevent unsuitable people from applying for work. That is left to to the employer, and that was the reason CRB was set up. But that was, in the main, employer choice. ISA changes the scene by requiring employers to check and thereby taking that part of decision-making away from the employer = you may not employ this person because s/he is banned.

    The issue about soft intel is, for me, the nub of this whole debate – surely none of you will object to a system which requires employers to check against a list of people banned because of the type of conviction they have had and which is one which is never ‘spent’? If we don’t agree that, then no further point. It has been unlawful for such people to be in such jobs for many years, I would guess from the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act at least. ISA is a means of employers HAVING to check on that basis.

    By doing so, this should help reduce any instances of such people getting such jobs further. Remember, David Lawrence, serial offender, walks out of clink in Nov 2002 and by March 2003 is in a situation where the employer is not performing CRB checks. So Lawrence, who knew he had been ‘outed’ by soft intel prior to conviction, and who knew full well he was breaking the law, seeks out a situation akin to what he had been able to survive in, and abuse in, repeatedly, over 20 years.

    I want you to answer me, as none of you seem to want to (and I accept fully you abhor child abuse etc), the following:

    1. Do you agree or not that it would be right for an employer to have to check that someone like Lawrence is not a banned Schedule 1 offender?

    2. Do you agree that it was right of the police to pass on soft intel on him in 1997 (they had not been allowed to before) to an authorised agent who then alerted the employing body where he was, two years prior to his conviction after many failed attempts?

    3. Do you agree that it would be better for such soft intel to be better regulated than hitherto?

    If you do agree the latter, then how would you do this? You see, the police do not only attempt to keep tabs on known convicted and released offenders – not easy when we know some will do all they can to slip the leash and disappear. They also keep tabs on people who they believe may be committing crime – it’s their basic function.

    So what IS soft intel? It’s information they gather on the way to possible arrest etc. However, they know by long experience just how hard it is to get corroboration from kids, for all sorts of reasons, not least …. threats, shame, blackmail, confusion, loyalty, maybe even notions of love, fear of consequences of discovery. So soft intel may assume rather special significance and also raise the quite proper issues around civil liberties and basic justice. No one refutes that here.

    But, then you need to ask what can be relied upon and who makes the judgement as to whether a person should be listed. The employer? The CRB RB/UB? The police? A court of law? But you quite rightly will say “innocent until proven guilty” – true, if this were a matter of a criminal law decision. But ISA is n not a criminal court, it is a tribunal for deciding whether a person should be listed as not to work with the two groups or not. ISA has a legislative framework – so there are those automatically banned and so listed, those with such convictions – and it has a clear method of reference for consideration of listing which is mandatory on employers – no more employer reliance on ‘retired through ill-health’ to disappear into the undergrowth and emerge e.g. still teaching in the independent sector 3o years later. That is now unlawful – is that wrong?

    I would hazard that ISA will be making its decisions on balance of probability, the only other basis for judicial decision, because banning is not a criminal matter. (However, a schedule 1 offender applying for such a job is. And now employing such a person will be. And failing to check will be. Is that wrong?)

    I have seen comment about the ECHR, that it may not be helpful/apply? Not so. The pre-existing system, in my view, certainly does run foul of the ECHR, especially Ministers having that barring right per List 99 etc with no legislated framework for representation and appeal.

    See Article 6.1, the right to a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal when accused of a criminal offence or where one’s civil rights and obligations are being determined. ISA will not be convicting anyone, their job is to bar those who they adjudge should not be working with the two groups. That is determining the person’s civil rights and obligations in my view. Indeed to allow the current system to continue is quite unacceptable, and those who are being considered for listing must have a means of representation at some form of tribunal.

    Does ISA fill that bill? As it has not yet started that work in a way that we can see results, I would say it’s too early to say. Certainly, I think you are wrong-headed to condemn it until it has had some time to show its metal and method.

    One route right away for anyone who wants to challenge ISA would be to invoke A6.1 on the grounds that ISA cannot perform such a task as I have described above. It’ll have to work for a while, but if such a case arises, it is right that a challenge should be made by anyone believing as I think many here will. The device of a Certificate of Incompatibility is one that a judge in the High Court or Appeal Court could apply to the legislation establishing ISA, and so you do have a means of recourse.

    Frankly, I do not believe you could prove such a claim in the Courts under the HRA 1999 but I suggest you try.

    Anyway, could ONE of you spell out simply (as I am no expert James) EXACTLY what system you believe WILL work. Please don’t just say everyone must talk to one another. Sure. But what when they don’t?

    I have asked specific questions and ask for specific answers on various points.

  40. Jan,

    “1. Do you agree or not that it would be right for an employer to have to check that someone like Lawrence is not a banned Schedule 1 offender?”

    Yes – I completely agree. He has been convicted of an offence that makes him unsuitable to work with children. He should be prevented from unsupervised access to children. This one is simple, there are strict criteria adhered to by the courts and all authorities involved in securing a conviction. Legally, it’s cut and dry.

    2. Do you agree that it was right of the police to pass on soft intel on him in 1997 (they had not been allowed to before) to an authorised agent who then alerted the employing body where he was, two years prior to his conviction after many failed attempts?

    No. I categorically do not agree. The only justification you have provided in this point is that he was *subsequently* convicted of an offence. Hindsight is a marvellous thing – but to turn your point on its head; after a police investigation has shown that no crime had been committed; would it be right to release soft intel on a teacher who then commits suicide because of the effects of that release, followed by the admission of the accuser that they made the allegation up because they didn’t like the teacher concerned? Again… hindsight is a wonderful thing. Where do you draw the line?

    You may say that the police would not release the intel in my example because of the relevance and proportionality tests etc… undertaken when deciding whether or not to disclose. Those of us ‘in the know’ know that this is not the case, the police cover their back as much as (if not more than) anyone else, they worry about accountability after the fact, when the irreparable damage has been done. There must be a reason why the disclosure (or otherwise) of soft-intel is such a burning issue for teaching unions?

    Interestingly, my copy of “Teaching Today” hit the mat this morning and the main feature in this months edition is entitled “false allegations”. They report that since 1991, over 2,700 allegations have been made against teachers, and only 136 have resulted in convictions – that’s barely 5%. To put it another way, almost 95% of those people had not done anything wrong to a standard that subsequently secured a conviction. Now, there’s no further breakdown of the statistics, to show what happened to the other 2564 people in terms of police investigations, discontinuances etc. but if the allegation does not hold enough water to even charge the accused (let alone take it to court) (an outcome I suspect in many of the 2564 non-convicted people), you can’t justifiably dictate someone’s career and life based on that same allegation and I think that there is course here to invoke the ECHR A8.

    I do think that (if the police are involved) they should keep a record of the accusation, in case something *might* happen in future. But… the information should not be disclosed to ANY OTHER AUTHORITY.

    I have put various numbers in various posts that show the scale of false accusations for teaching staff; and it’s clear it’s a growing problem. So I suggest that ‘the line’ is currently in the wrong place, especially if there’s any truth in the article by Savulescu et al. from Oxford University that I posted the other day.
    And… the information I have drawn on only relates to teachers; how does that compare when you add social workers, doctors, nurses etc. who all deal with similar groups of people, a proportion of whom are damaged in ways that those in the education system do not encounter with any frequency?

    “3. Do you agree that it would be better for such soft intel to be better regulated than hitherto?”

    I absolutely agree – but the ISA (certainly in its current (and intended) guise) is not the way to do it. The ISA is a system whereby any member of the public can report any person for something they *think* someone else *might* have done that *might* (or if repeated again, *could*) have harmed (or harm) a vulnerable person. There are too many modal verbs here, and not enough protection for those who find themselves at the foot of this kind of accusation.

    You’re right that organisations don’t talk enough. There should therefore be a legislative slant on making them talk more, not on opening up the barring process to hearsay. To introduce an authority where one member of the public has a say on what they think another member of the public is or is not suitable for… it’s like Salem.

    That’s without even getting into the realms of interpretation… there’s no nationally agreed framework by which employers making referral decisions have to satisfy themselves that a child has, or may be, or could have been harmed. What it really boils down to is that if someone doesn’t like what someone else has done (assuming it’s legal) then they can refer to the ISA for them to make a decision… and whilst I can see the value of letting someone else make a decision, I think that the system will fall down… the ISA is looking for reasons to bar someone, not for reasons not to bar someone – fundamentally a different approach.

    And so to the identification of ‘false allegations’ by the ISA…

    You say that false allegations will be treated as such. Hopefully, we’ll see that this is indeed the case, but even a false allegation is going to generate lots of paperwork that has a habit of hanging around for many years, and at the very least the ISA will contact the accused, asking for their side of the story.
    From first hand experience, I can tell you that the ISA do not hurry – this is damaging enough to the legally innocent individual, without factoring in whether the individual is subsequently barred or told to get on with life and go on their merry way. If they are barred on the basis of an unsubstantiated or malicious allegation – bang goes your career, home, family, friends etc.
    On the balance of probability, just as in beyond reasonable doubt, it boils down to how convincing your argument is… After all, in the case of an unsubstantiated allegation, once the finger has been pointed, can anyone provide evidence that they’re not a danger to children??

    Even if the individual concerned is not barred, it’s almost certain that the ISA will not climb down that easily and the accused will probably receive a letter from this ISA, perhaps something along the lines of “your behaviour has caused significant concern and if repeated may lead to inclusion on one of the Government’s barred lists” – how can someone react to that, when they’ve done nothing wrong in the first place?

    Furthermore, how many people are going to have to go though the hell of the ISA investigative process for it to be concluded one way or the other that it either does, or does not correctly identify and handle false/malicious/unsubstantiated/grossly exaggerated allegations? And what recourse will those poor suffragettes have then, career down the pan, life irreparably damaged etc.?

    Moreover, the ISA has allowed my accuser to ‘keep up the fight’ against me, because my accuser does not accept the outcome of the police investigation, specifically that I DID NOTHING WRONG.

    It’s very difficult for accusers to step-down and admit that they got it wrong… regardless of the outcome of the ISA investigation into my alleged behaviour, the existence of the ISA means that my accuser doesn’t have to step-down – and I can do nothing to redress the balance and seek justice, whatever the outcome.

    Jan, you talk of the legislation increasing the accountability of authorities when people who they are designed to trap are missed, and the terrible effects of that error. And I agree that they should be accountable for that. What of accountability when they are shown to bar someone inappropriately… the way the legislation is worded currently means that they can’t bar someone inappropriately because the guidelines as to what constitutes grounds for barring can be interpreted in so many ways.

    Now, I have a couple of specific questions of my own, that I would like you to answer: –

    1. How many people who have been accused of an offence that would qualify for auto-barring and who were not at the time charged or convicted (for whatever reason) go on to be convicted of an offence that subsequently warrants inclusion on a barred list?

    2. At what point do *you* think I should be allowed to rebuild my life after investigation of an allegation made by someone else that turned out to be completely incorrect, and what consequences should I reasonably be expected to suffer, as a result of their mistake?

  41. Cosmodaddy

    Let’s refer to your 2 questions directly:

    1. My understanding of auto-barring is taken from government advice viz:

    “From 20 January 2009:
    • The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will take barring decisions on “new”
    referrals under legislation relating to current lists.
    • From this date, Protection of Children Act (POCA) and Protection of Vulnerable
    Adults (POVA) provisional listing on new cases will end. ISA will not provisionally bar
    a person while considering a referral. Those involved in recruitment will need to fulfil
    existing responsibilities as set out in Circular No: 34/2002. , e.g. taking up references
    from job applicants and asking for information about previous employment and obtain
    satisfactory explanations for any gaps in employment.
    • The ISA will automatically bar a person without a referral, when they receive
    information directly from the police that the person received a new conviction or
    caution (after 20 January 2009), for a relevant serious offence (as DCSF Ministers do
    now with List 99).
    • The ISA will be accountable for all work on and subsequent decisions on these cases
    – both automatic and discretionary barring. ISA will contest appeals on new cases, if
    it so decides; and handle any reviews on new cases. The ISA can take into account
    information from any previous referrals to current barring lists, when it considers a
    case.
    • A barring decision by the ISA between January 2009 and the autumn 2009 go-live will
    have exactly the same effect as a Secretary of State bar now on POCA, POVA or on
    List 99 for unsuitability.
    • Where an employer in your sector makes a check against List 99 or POCA, that will
    also automatically check people barred by ISA from 20 January onwards, as well as
    those barred by the Secretary of State.”

    So auto-barring is of reference from the police who act in accordance with laws which specify that certain offences mean no further access to that type of employment. Are we agreed? ISA will not bar any such person under that referral until there is a conviction/caution?

    Would they be considered for discretionary barring? I don’t know but I would say it would be possible.

    Let’s remember that ISA’s task is not to convict it is to bar on grounds of unsuitability. That, I think, covers three groups:

    a) those auto-barred as above
    b) those whose employers have complied with the law to refer them for conisderation on the grounds of their employment behaviour which would mean they should not be employed in such situations in the future. This is discretionary barring. ISA will have to investigate cases put to it and that is a task similar to the List 99 and POCAL situations which have applied up to now. Only the VBB will make the decision, not the Minister. The VBB is quasi-judicial in function, the Minister is a politician however well-advised.

    c) Will there be cases submitted by the police on the basis of soft intel? If not, then ISA will not be involved. If yes, then ISA takes away any decision on that from both the CRB RB/UB or the employer. One hopes this is the case for the reasons I think we have identified that people have been (maybe unwittingly) the victims/subjects of such decisions without their knowledge or their ability to challenge or be involved. ISA will have to involve the intended subject, grant representation facilities etc.

    The European HR Convention, Article 6.1 – does the current situation allow for the requirements of that Article – no question, it does not. I would guess such a question would be regarded as the determination of someone’s civil liberties and maybe of their civil obligations. ISA should be able to show in individual cases and in general that its work complies with A6.1. There are reasons why its proceedings may not be held in public (which is allowable as it may protect the innocent).

    How much material would constitute a soft intel referral? Don’t know. I would say that the police will get allegations all the time about people, they will collate persistent ones etc. I would guess this may be a detail for ACPO/ISA discussion, I will find out FoI. But let’s say that there may be some such referrals. Would you say that was fair? And if so, what degree of convincing should ISA need to have to make a discretionary barring decision?

    I would think we could agree that, of a, b and c above, the large proportion will come under a) and maybe a large minority under b) (no idea just a guess). But those under c) (if ISA does this at all) will be the small minority of decisions.

    But one injustice is one too many, and a tragedy. Alas, the current system perpetrates them, and ISA being a human institution will do also, but the aim is to reduce from the current (unknown) situation to a known and correctable minimum. The VBB will operate a ‘due process’ according to parameters, which is not the current situation at all.

    2. As soon as possible and with due compensation and inquiry. ISA’s job is to get it right first time. No one should be barred on the basis of one soft intel report, and ISA has a perfect right to ask ‘why no prosecution’. It also is entitled to ask about someone’s behaviours and actions, not as to whether criminal but as to whether this constitutes grounds for barring.

    The alternatives are to stay as things have been or to go back even before then, when it was a case of the friendly word in your ear guv. If you disagree, then tell me what should happen?

    Financial compensation if wrongly barred and evidence comes to light? Of course. Review of the process that created an injustice, be it at police, employer or ISA level? Of course. Role for an advocacy body to mount challenges and aid potential victims of injustice? Absolutely. That is not happening under the current/now-expiring system and never saw the light of day pre-CRB where A6.1 never was considered (especially as it was pre HRA as well and the only recourse was Strasbourg).

    Let’s now look at your views about soft intel on David Lawrence: you do not agree this should have led to his removal from working with that football junior league where he had been a respected member for over 20 years. You say we cannot claim wisdom after the event.

    What could we have claimed had this information been known and not shared? More offences against children, of that I think we have some certainty. When the police contacted me via VOCS I was put in a position unique in several thousand checks we’d undertaken (and never repeated since then with VOCS and CRB). I was sent a letter, one carefully checked with the A&S solicitors I am sure, copied to Lawrence. No details just an opinion that he represented a danger to young people and had been the subject of numerous complaints. I had no framework to deal with that delivery, and had to work on the basis of deciding what could be conveyed to the league’s appointed people, under what security etc. I could not tell them not to let him continue his access, nor to contine it. The advice I gave was solely about risk assessment and management, and the principle of child protection that the child’s welfare comes first, whilst recognising civil liberties aspects. One thing I did ask the league – as Lawrence had had many police encounters, were they aware of any such allegations, attempted prosecutions from Lawrence or his alleged claim against the police? No – in most situations employers can make that an obligatory matter for disclosure by an employee.

    Was Lawrence subject of one isolated allegation and from one child only? No, that was clear, that there had been a long history. [Why had cases not got far? In most situations it emerges later, as in general, that the boys were reluctant to disclose even to come forward as adults, some finding it hard even after his conviction to come forward and say he had involved them, even as far back as 1975. You really do need to take that aspect on board. The recent Childline figures for boys disclosing includes around 1200 allegations of being raped, almost as high as calls about loneliness. If none of you saw the brave guys talking on Channel 4 about their childhood public school experiences, you should – and we find that one teacher is still teaching in a school in that system 30 years on.]

    So would ISA referral of such information be safer, all round indeed? Or do you propose no action at all even where there are persistent stories from multiple sources? Surely you cannot be serious as to want to return to the ‘friendly-word-in-ear-guv’ scenario or even no word at all until it all comes tumbling out years on and everyone locally says “no one suspected” when maybe they just did but did not share it?

    By the way, just a comment on the ‘most of it occurs in domestic situations’. Yes, but what then do you say to the pilots now operating to enable prospective partners to check out their intendeds? So far, the feared abuse of the information has not occurred but one wonders what might happen in a universal system? I also point out that such people may not be suitable to work with other people’s children either and so checks made under such domestic situations, should that information be available to ISA?

    I repeat, ISA is not about convicting, it is about suitability. That has to be based on the child’s best interests (the legal position of the UNCRC and of our law) and, not being a criminal justice determination, will not be based on the requirements of criminal justice (without reasonable doubt) but on balance of probability.

    There’s hearsay, a lot of hearsay, and repeated allegations from many sources over a long period. Who should know about that and who should make the decision about suitability? The employee? The employer? The Police? The Registered/Umbrella Body Lead-Countersignatory? The Ministers overseeing List 99 and POCAL? The Vetting and Barring Board? Or no one?

    I would suggest that this exchange should be directed to ISA for their comments also? If you agree I will contact them and give them the link?

  42. Jan,

    I think that you have correctly identified the three groups (a, b and c in your post) that the ISA will ‘cover’.

    Group: A – I totally agree with you.

    Group: B – I’ll come back to those shortly!

    Group: C – a tricky group to deal with, I think. If the police are referring to the ISA on the basis of ‘soft intel’, then I would suspect that they have carried out (at least) a superficial investigation that has highlighted several concerns with the individual, that do not constitute an offence, but that the police feel needs to be looked at in a different light (i.e. balance of probability rather than beyond reasonable doubt) – for group C to exist, there is necessarily a lack of a conviction/caution for a ‘relevant serious offence’.

    Now back to group: B. This group is the hardest of all to make discretionary barring decisions about, because of the circumstances by which the referred individual comes to be so. Each employer has different policies and procedures. I would surmise that paid employment requires reasonable evidence of misconduct, to support the employer at the inevitable employment tribunals etc. However, voluntary organisations have no such requirement, as there is no recourse for dismissal from a voluntary position… you’re a volunteer!

    As an example, the voluntary organisation that dismissed me and then referred my name to the ISA, did so despite the police saying that what had been alleged, categorically did not happen, and despite the young people involved saying (to both the police and the organisation) that ‘X’ had got it wrong when they leapt to a conclusion about what I was alleged to have done.

    The person that dismissed me accepted (in a meeting) that I had done nothing wrong, but that I had put myself in a position where wrongdoing could be (and was) alleged, and could not be disproved (well… it was, by the police) and that they were dismissing me partly not to lose face after the police failed to identify any wrongdoing, and partly due to my sexuality (I’m gay) – they were also very selective with what was minuted and passed on to those higher up (who are responsible for making referrals to the ISA). Not only that, but it was someone else, on the back of these prejudiced and discriminatory minutes who referred me to the ISA… oh, and nearly 12 months later too… why wait that long to protect children? The reason/excuse given to the ISA for the delay: “fulfilling [organisation name here] procedures”.

    The point is that when beginning an investigation; the ISA has no option other than to assume that referrals are truthful, and are based on sound pre-referral judgement… just like the police. What is different however is that the police have greater powers to examine every aspect of the accused (and accuser) e.g. house searches, computers seized etc. Therefore, the police can very easily see if there is any cause for concern at all, once alerted to a problem. I was arrested on no evidence at all… so the requirement for a substantive evidential basis for arrest is a myth.

    The ISA however, rely only on letters and supportive documentation from both parties (they’re like a third party that weigh the balance in a war of words between me and my accuser). Spot the problem here… this process only looks at one tiny facet of the accused persons life, and the accuser can virtually say what they like; they’re protected from defamation claims and any other legal consequence by claiming that they reasonably believed the accusations to be true. In my case, there’s no evidence at all to show the prejudice, discrimination and other people’s back-scratching that I have suffered, so my defence is unequivocally weakened. Furthermore, the very fact that they dismissed me strengthens their argument in recommending that they confirm a bar.

    With a police investigation, there’s greater protection for all concerned and the accuracy of claims made by both sides are much more easily determined.

    And so, finally pared back to my biggest problem with the ISA; the inherent ambiguity surrounding referrals.

    If employers are duty bound to refer when they dismiss (or the individual leaves) in circumstances where a vulnerable person *could* have been harmed… then why isn’t that employer calling the police and letting them investigate and decide whether someone *has* or *realistically* could have been harmed? The police are much better trained and much more impartial than individuals within an organisation. Furthermore, the police have no axe to grind against anyone – accused or accuser. Various new amendments and acts have been passed to reduce the level of proof or to shift the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused in this kind of case, and to introduce new offences to bring those who have harmed or may harm vulnerable groups to account, and to prevent them from doing so in future.

    Therefore on balance, I think that group ‘c’ as identified in your post, provides a more rigorous basis for a referral mechanism than we currently have, partly because there is greater accountability, but if the police refer after investigation, there’s a real prospect, based on real evidence that the accused has actually done something wrong (albeit not criminally wrong) and therefore it removes a lot of the ambiguity that internal investigations may contain, but also somewhat ‘hardens’ soft intel and proportionally increases it’s reliability. I posit that this would reduce ‘false’ referrals and protect more vulnerable people because investigations automatically become more impartial and rigorous, and referrals to the ISA contain less hearsay and more credible intelligence. This would not only reduce the ISA’s workload, but allows them to sort the wheat from the chaff more easily. With more police investigations into abuse taking place than ever before, I don’t think this would cost anything like as much as might be predicted.

    What is needed is a one stop process that examines criminal culpability and ‘civil suitability’ concomitantly. Not only does this speed things up and remove several ambiguities associated with soft-intel, it *should* foster the destruction of the communication hiatus that has been highlighted again and again as a cause of previous failings… it would make the whole barring process accountable… not just aspects of it. (For example, it would include the referral stage of the process, which is currently so ambiguous and only accountable on the basis of different organisations differing policies on acceptable conduct (and hence differences in what is unacceptable or *could* harm a vulnerable person)).

    I accept that the ISA was not conceived to convict individuals, but to prevent unsuitable people from unsupervised access. I also agree that it’s better to have a body that is subject to more control and accountability than just well-intentioned ministers, but what I do not accept is a system by which any person can report anyone else, for anything that they feel might be inappropriate. I accept that this is not entirely how the ISA was envisaged, but it worryingly shows that the lessons from the abuse of the CRB system have not been learned, especially when the person responsible for the inception of the ISA has raised concerns about the behemoth that the government have introduced on the back of his recommendations.

    I was pleased to read in your response that you do not accept that collateral damage is acceptable to innocent individuals whilst the ISA discharges its duties; and you suggest that a compensatory process should be/will be the recourse for the wrongly barred. We all seem to accept that some collateral damage is unavoidable, however small, given the way that the ISA will operate. I have put here what I think might help, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how such needless damage could be minimised.

    Finally, the office of the information commissioner wrote to the ISA several months ago, requesting that they address many of the issues that we have identified on these threads, they are still awaiting an answer from the ISA, so I doubt they would involve themselves in this forum. Moreover, I would *not* like the ISA to be involved in these exchanges, as they currently provide a sounding board for people that are in my position to express their feelings and opinions about the process that (to us) feels so immoral and unjust.

    How close do these soundings come to ‘soft intel’ and thus ammunition with which to bar?

  43. “the impetus for the national vetting scheme did not come from parents, or from a rational approach to preventing child abuse: it came from the shameless politicisation of two horrific cases of child murder, by policymakers who were already working towards the goals of a greater regulation of adults’ interaction with children”

    Another good article in Spiked today.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7260/

  44. Jan said

    “I would suggest that this exchange should be directed to ISA for their comments also? If you agree I will contact them and give them the link”

    You’re joking right? Bearing in mind what the Home Office said to Josie Appleton…

    “UK Home Office and education officials simply cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be vetted. When I challenged the Home Office official in charge of the scheme about a potential rebellion against vetting, he said that if somebody didn’t want to be vetted ‘there must be suspicious reasons for that’”

    Beggars belief!

  45. Cosmodaddy

    You say you were reported to ISA? When was this and when did you hear the vetting decision?

    James

    Spiked – says it all. Ferudi – yesterday’s revoluntionary marxist leader of the people, Great Teacher, now apologist for market forces, Pundit Extraordinaire, and all his followers. ‘If you read my latest book’ etc etc. They seem to have a plan for being available to be on any pundit panel going on TV. Next you’ll tell me how wonderful Civitas is ….. They like this line too. Tim Gill play pundit and all. “Licensed to Hug” … yes, yes.

    Home Office – yes, well, and they have Louise Casey too. Didn’t go far enough when they hived off the Min of Justice. Now Casey does worry me. Don’t worry about how we get there, look at the crime stats.

    Mind you, I am clear from my own quite wide experience in playwork etc that most of us want vetting, it serves to help those who are guiltless to know that all have been checked at least prior to coming in though we all know that this is only part of sound child protection which works best on the basis of sensible and thorough risk analysis – founded on the premise that we want to ensure children are the ones not locked away and not restricted. That is its own debate, happy to engage. ISA/CRB are only part of it.

    I did a simple calculation on the idea that of 60 million people we may have at least 1000 paedophiles as yet undetected – that would be 0.017% of the population. Abusing at least one child to be so labelled, and most probably abusing at least one new child each year? The figures are pretty horrendous. My notional figure does not include abuse in the home, but only stranger access (e.g. via sports, school etc). The NSPCC’s latest FoI trawl gives an overall picture of recorded offences: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/whatwedo/mediacentre/pressreleases/2009_19_january_fifty_recorded_child_sex_offences_a_day_wdn62997.html

    What do you think of such an estimate of 1000 people undetected and at least 1000 children each year in non-domestic situations? Higher higher as Bruce would say? Lower lower? Interested to have your perception.

  46. Jan you don’t seem to understand that everybody in this thread (apart from James) isn’t actually me. I see you responded to rock_bottom as if they were me – it makes your suggestion about referring this thread to the ISA even more alarming than it already was. I don’t want their comments – I don’t acknowledge they have a moral right to exist. You’ve said:

    I repeat, ISA is not about convicting, it is about suitability.

    It’s making an arbitrary decision, without using legally challengable criteria about suitability. You persistently ignore my question about the morality of such a system being instituted in public life and the damage that it already causes regardless of the original intention. You have also said:

    ISA will not be convicting anyone, their job is to bar those who they adjudge should not be working with the two groups. That is determining the person’s civil rights and obligations in my view.

    What system to the ISA have in place to make their decisions based on a civil or human rights criteria? As it stands the ISA do essentially play judge, jury and executioner, by making a judgment which (as I’ve explained earlier) is to all intents & purposes almost impossible to challenge under the law. Should the ISA not itself be open to scrutiny? As the law is currently formulated I assure you it’s not. The best interests of the child (or ‘the vulnerable’) are one thing, but for such an agency only to be factoring one side of the argument in is irresponsible at best, dangerous at worst.

    Financial compensation if wrongly barred and evidence comes to light? Of course.

    Typically New Labour tinkering. What good is financial compensation if someone’s life has been ruined? If someone’s reputation has been destroyed, if their self esteem has been damaged by a needless referral or a false accusation? Why even go down such a route (as I have repeatedly put to you to no avail) when there is no need for this agency? Finally I can’t believe this comment:

    Anyway, could ONE of you spell out simply (as I am no expert James) EXACTLY what system you believe WILL work. Please don’t just say everyone must talk to one another. Sure. But what when they don’t?

    You’re advocating not falling back on trying to get the existing system to work. Really?! On not expecting existing child protection systems to work properly in the areas they’re authorised (and expected to) by law? The answer to ‘what when they don’t’ is the answer to this overall question – you hold the people not doing their jobs to account, manage the system properly and reform it where necessary. The ISA by its very nature cannot do what it’s tasked to do, and will take significant numbers of people down with it needlessly. Now let’s start getting right who we’re talking to, and remembering the point of this thread. I want people to be contributing to this thread whose lives have been adversely affected by the ISA, not to have them put off by the ISA themselves interfering. Does that make sense?

  47. Jan, all these figures you keep quoting are wholly misleading.

    Reporters at The Register have done their own research in an attempt to take some of the spin off this alarmist paranoia.

    They discovered that out of all these so called unsuitable people who were ‘supposedly’ stopped from gaining access to children or vulnerable adults – only 4% were due to things of a sexual nature. I say ‘things’ because it would also be inaccurate to say 4% had sexual offence ‘convictions’. The Home Office clarified that only 74% of that 4% group had actual convictions – the rest were stopped as a result of “other information”. They went on to say they…

    “have access to over 55 million pieces of non-conviction information via its PLX database”.

    Frightening!

    The report concludes that –

    ….the bulk of child protection is based not on hard conviction data – but rather, can be tracked back to “other information”.

    I suppose this is the kind of ‘other information’ which has left two of the correspondents on this thread alone damaged and hurt.

    Furthermore, we hear on regular basis how easy it is to become a ‘sex offender’ these days. Absurd stories about perfectly innocent incidents like the man who fell over on the bus and inadvertently touched a girls breast. It was suggested prosecution would attract harassment and publicity (he worked in a school) so he accepted a caution, but within that caution comes a requirement to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register so he lost his job anyway.

    The whole thing is an absolute nightmare and will prove to be an utter failure, but it’s being bulldozed through regardless. The people responsible for this have no regard for child protection at all – to the contrary, their meddling and their obsessiveness is just creating a really unpleasant society and has seen the human condition plummet to an all time low – with an ingrained feeling of fear and mistrust.

    I absolutely abhor the very concept of the ISA and everyone who grandstands it as being in the interests of our children. It’s a filthy nasty evil conception and it needs to be stopped.

    Fundamentally, It will not and cannot stop paedophiles having access to children – and it’s absurd to think it will.

    Source of figures:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/09/vetting_checks/

  48. Cosmodaddy

    No, clearly the current system is likely to foul up in a very serious way from time to time. If you have a system which has a weakness, you identify that and correct the weakness. It’s like saying my computer works fine if humans use it properly but never mind it crashes occasionally anyway due to a system weakness. What do we get – upgrades and patches to sort out a systemic weakness. Telling me we just have to make the current system work, and it’s all common sense, could just as well have been applied to the pre-CRB system(s). The CRB system is flawed – because there is no update after the CRB ‘snapshot’ (that’s what we knew at the time the certificate was issued), and because employers have to decide whether to check or not in many situations and then have to decide on non-conviction information if they should be told about it.

    CRB was designed as an employer tool, ISA is not for that purpose. It is to put onto a legislative basis those administrative systems that existed in part, and to ensure employer consultation of those lists.

    James

    Firstly “only” 4% hwere sexually-based and of those 74% were actual convictions. That reads as 3% had sexual convictions and 1% were listed on other grounds? Soft intel? See foregoing debate which suggests to me that there is a lot of soft info needed to be listed on balance of probability. Employer referrals? What is needed to list from that angle on sexual grounds.

    But what of the other 96% which you say were not to do with sexual matters? What WERE they to do with? Remember the public obsession with sexual issues and that child protection is not mainly about such issues but about other aspects. Would someone reported as neglecting their own kids, but not prosecuted possibly, be referred for consideration for listing? Or where there was concern about domestic violence, drug-supply and usage. How about those refused registration to run child care or child minding, or, rather more relevant to me, those who have had such registration removed by Ofsted because inspections show they ran poor regimes of care resulting in child endangerment (a US term)? An employer report which says this person as an employee was negligent to such a degree that instant dismissal was lawfully justified and that the person ought to be consider ed for listing? Rather than ‘retired through ill-health’?

    Of course the bulk of child protection is not based on hard conviction data! Most child protection is not about the criminal law. Take an incident – a Saturday Club, kids come while their parents shop, a regular clientelle of 25-30 kids 5-14 years. Staff all CRB’d etc, plenty of volunteers not put off by also being CRB’d. 3 siblings regular attenders, one aged 10 leaves an art piece which when cleared up by worker he reads as possible suicidal thoughts by child, maybe father dead. Staff share thoughts at session end, brother and sister also, as child, showing signs of changed behaviour – anxiety, aggression, tearfulness etc – over past few weeks. Decision by team using project CP guidelines – refer upstairs to project CP officer who discusses matter with them all same day and on Monday calls contact at Social Services, who says family not known but will check round – schools etc. Child’s material copied to them. CP is such that you don’t always get the feedback, the big picture on the jigsaw piece you found. But you do sometimes and so social services contact (a name not a post) comes back and says it is not a) suicidal child, or sex abuse, or anything other than what I believe is the most common abusive situation, parental breakup where children become piggy-in-the-middle pawns/victims. The project played its part, help was directed to family and children, project i/d as alerter kept so kids kept coming (with social services worker). Key was the recognition that such vol projects can play crucial role at ground-level based on their community status and acceptance.

    Can soft intel come from such situations? You bet. What kids may tell to people they trust …

    Let’s go back to Bichard. Did he say ‘just get the CRB system right you morons and we’ll save lives’? No he did not, he identified that systemic weakness. It is really a no-brainer. We have a system which already bars people from working with kids. Yes but we don’t require those who employ people to work with kids to consult it …? Only after the 1999 Protection of Children Act and the setting up of POCAL do we oblige employers in the registered childcare sector to both consult POCAL and to report. Leaving the vast majority of employment situations entirely at employers’ discretion. Can’t afford that. Can’t afford fire extinguishers?

    I rather feel that if you look behind the Cullen Report on Dunblane such a register may have been considered and disregarded after alarmed bleating that it would be impossible to set up and run. Check it out anyway. Bichard did not say do not set up ISA nor has he now said don’t. When the working party at DfCSF met, and even before then when the Childcare Approval System was being debated, issues of size of task were discussed and they decided not on a list being who was approved to work but on who was barred, as the lesser task. Maintaining the former would have been nigh-impossible, that was the consensus, plus civil liberties issues which make this pall – should it be part of the proposed I/D Card etc? The debate went there, and quickly steered to the substantial but lesser concept of who is banned.

    No making the current system work is only part of it, the system has an inherent flaw and ISA is the solution – no one says it will be perfect. Nothing is.

    James, it can and will help prevent unsuitable access, it is daft to say otherwise, sorry. The language you use is frankly silly, maybe offensive. The issue is whether it will create ‘collateral damage’ and inflict ‘friendly fire’, and to what degree. I think it has a far better chance than the present hidden half-accountable system of preventing such injustice, and in remedying it should it happen. In those latter cases there will be a need for an advocacy and representation set-up and I hope people will get that moving. One of its jobs would be to work independently to hold ISA to account – cooperatively hopefully but if necessary adversorially. The main thing, however, is that such cases are shown to be rare indeed.

    By the way, the Register story also makes the error of assuming it’s all about preventing sex abusers – but also, what would have happened had those 592 not been identified? They had applied to work with children etc? Why, if they knew they were banned (they would be for such convictions). So they would have just owned up at interview? (Remember, CRBs are to be applied for when someone has been offered employment not before). Or having been offered it, they say “Well actually old boy I have a conviction for molesting children”? Go on, don’t make me african mate! If you applied, you hoped you’d slide past scrutiny. 592 people released into working with kids who we know are a danger. Get on with ISA I say, take the choice away from employer and applicant.

    Rock-Bottom

    Sorry for not addressing you when I ought. 4am in the morning is not the best time to be on the ball.

    To all, I am appalled if people are unfairly treated and their lives wrecked. Not sure how ISA is doing this as opposed to old system, but please enlighten.

    If someone has been a volunteer in a situation where they have been sacked and have no recourse, then I’d say that Vol Body has no credible system in place which values it volunteers and gives them the disciplinary, grievance and appeal rights of employees. That stinks and has been used often under every system to deny people basic rights.

    Before people sign up to help in a vol body, perhaps they need to start asking some basic questions – like, do you tread all over people who volunteer, treat them like cattle, whilst promoting yourselves as rights/welfare bodies. Every volunteer should have a charter of employment rights and duties issued by the organisation, and means of appeal and complaint. The days of Lady Bountiful and Lt Colonel Jock Strap OBE have gone – I suffered employment hassle with such people many years back, a good TU is a godsend. I have been treated apallingly recently in a vol body (but not on CP or safety issues and hounded out by a group of conniving liars who now are pillaging its resources and locking others out too, so I too have my issues – I rescued the charity from the receiver and got someone to stump up £285,000 to pay it’s debts and revive its fortunes, but I was too nice – amateur luvvies – stab you in the back and then turn on each other after you’re gone. I’ll stay with Children’s Play, altogether nicer people).

    Maybe one of the TUs should recruit in the volunteer sector for a very low premium, or an enlighted employer pay it as part of good practice?

    Your situation is appalling, caused by a vol body and thus doubly-inexcusable. Being sacrificed to convenience and prejudice. ISA has not banned you? One wonders what the vol body might say to a court challenge about its actions recklessly and deliberately damaging your reputation, employment and volunteering prospects etc – this sort of crap has gone on for years unchallenged. A hefty out-of-court settlement and public ‘outing’ soon gets around to dissuade future sacrifices on the altar of convenience. Maybe one of the pro-bono set ups around civil liberties? Depends on cost, I know, also on stress etc.

    Those who give their time, skills and reputations put themselves on the line, so should be protected where this is necessary from what I regard as rogue voluntary sector employers of volunteers – there are not a few victims judging from my experience, and not least in the charity shop sector amongst those with learning difficulties. Charity Shop Managers as Hitler Substitutes ….

    I was blithely informed by a regeneration guru I am worth £75 an hour when I volunteer. Oh goody says I. So when some local govt tosser lords their ignorance over me, they get it in the neck. If I am worth that, then I am worth some volunteer rights too. If not I walk and go where people appreciate me for my skills, experience, knowledge, style, good looks and unflinching charm. Etc. I get takers. There are better fish in the sea.

  49. Jan said …

    “By the way, the Register story also makes the error of assuming it’s all about preventing sex abusers – but also, what would have happened had those 592 not been identified”

    The fact is these people would still be a threat regardless of being prevented from working with children. That’s the nub of the whole issue. Barring /Disclosing doesn’t eradicate the threat – paedophiles don’t suddenly change their behaviour because they’ve been unable to get work at the local school. That’s what I mean when I say the whole concept of the ISA and the CRB is flawed. It doesn’t stop child abuse – it can’t – it just prevents it manifesting in the workplace, but that’s nothing whatsoever so do with protecting children – that’s more covering our backs, and frankly, I’m sick to death of living in a covering-our-backs society. It’s disingenuous and fake.

  50. James, it can and will help prevent unsuitable access, it is daft to say otherwise, sorry. The language you use is frankly silly, maybe offensive.

    What exactly do you find offensive about what he said? Can the ISA prevent some unsuitable access? That’s never been in doubt. The issue is that it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut, which as the analogy suggests will cause immense collateral damage. I feel like we’re going around in circles here – I agree with James, in repeating my earlier comment (which was the subject of another thread) that a bureaucratic system such as the ISA hasn’t a chance in hell of truly fulfilling its remit. By ridiculously tying ‘child protection’ to people who are already known to the police, the silent majority become completely invisible. By determining anyone (as James rightly says) with a ‘sex offender’ record (which is very easily done these days) as the threat against children completely misses the point. Will that identify people who pose a threat? Sure it will. But do the limited ends justify the extraordinarily damaging means? You haven’t expressed a viewpoint on this other than suggesting financial compensation when the ISA gets it wrong, which misses the point surely. The ISA will not put people out of pocket, it will (and already does) ruin lives.

    The issue is whether it will create ‘collateral damage’ and inflict ‘friendly fire’, and to what degree. I think it has a far better chance than the present hidden half-accountable system of preventing such injustice, and in remedying it should it happen.

    There is no meaningful remedy should the ISA destroy someone’s reputation, career or life. It’s 100% unjust. Should we stick with it and hope for the best? The evidence we currently have with government bureaucracies such as this is ‘no’.

    In those latter cases there will be a need for an advocacy and representation set-up and I hope people will get that moving. One of its jobs would be to work independently to hold ISA to account – cooperatively hopefully but if necessary adversorially. The main thing, however, is that such cases are shown to be rare indeed.

    But they’re already not. And despite the growing outcry against the organisation there is no real move (certainly not by legislators) to get it right. Where do you think that move will come from – from people with criminal records which aren’t any of the ISA’s business, but which the ISA thinks are? Who would want to put their heads above the parapet in such a scenario? The people who will get the most damaged by the ISA are amongst the most vulnerable in society, because their needs are almost impossible to represent with any safety, such is our paranoia about paedophilia. I agree such a system should come into place in principal, I however don’t believe the ISA has any right (or need) to exist and should be immediately wound up.

  51. Sorry, rushed reply…off out

    Cosmos said..

    “What exactly do you find offensive about what he said? Can the ISA prevent some unsuitable access? That’s never been in doubt”

    Thanks.

    I suppose the nub of my point there was that the ISA and CRB can only filter out unsuitable people from ‘the work place’ – it’ doesn’t and cannot stop these people having access to children outside the workplace – so as a child protection measure it’s flawed. It doesn’t protect children – it just minimises the risk of anything happening in the workplace which, as I said, is more about covering backs than protecting kids. If we were really serious about protecting children we would be looking at paedophilia in general – not just limiting paedophile activity at work which doesn’t deal with the underlying behaviour.

  52. Indeed. And as I said it’ll only be able to filter out some of the people from the work place, and without due consideration to whether it’s needed or not. Meanwhile the most dangerous people remain under the radar of the organisation itself. I’d love to know how the ISA would have dealt Baby Peter’s mother and her boyfriend – prevented them from getting together in the first place? Regardless of their inhuman behaviour (and the trials of just such a system which Jan refers to earlier), that would be one Big Brother step too far. The moment we try to use the state to regulate our private relationships we’re on the fast track to hell.

    Jan:

    The CRB system is flawed – because there is no update after the CRB ’snapshot’

    The CRB system is flawed for that reason, yes. You’ve also identified the larger reason why CRB/ISA is inherently flawed and misguided. There are a handful of ways to ‘update the snapshot’ – you either gather information to ‘fill the gap’ (which isn’t fair or just) or acknowledge that a bureaucracy isn’t able to give you all the answers you want. An abuser not known to the system will remain invisible to CRB and ISA indefinitely in all likelihood. This is why organisations should have their own discretion and their own internal and external protection systems for vulnerable people. It’s insane for the state to do it.

  53. Sorry guys, another long post!

    To allow all to see my point of view and the basis on which I have formed my opinions, I’ve outlined below what the state of play is with my referral currently. Some of this is posted on other (similar) topics… apologies for repetition; I know it’s not really the done thing.

    Jan, thanks for your input on my position. You’re dead right, it does stink! To answer your question, currently I’m ‘provisionally listed’ – a situation that does not exist with new referrals (from 20th Jan 2009 I think?). The reason that the ISA no longer provisionally list whilst they make a decision one way or the other is because a group of nurses who were referred to the ISA (I think by a disgruntled patient) were provisionally listed whilst the ISA reviewed the case. The ISA decided not to bar the nurses; the NHS then took up their case and (quite rightly) tried to bring a case against the ISA… the House of Lords ruled that the ISA were in breach of ECHR article 6 when it provisionally lists – therefore it’s stopped.

    So, that gives you some idea of how long I’ve been waiting…. I got a letter from the ISA saying my name had been referred to them and that they were looking at the ‘merits’ of the case on 1st Sept 2008. That letter said, quite clearly that until they had made a *final* decision, there was *no* restriction on my employment. I told my employer anyway… I’ve got nothing to hide, and I think that they need to be aware. They were very supportive, they had also supported me extensively through the police investigation a year previous to this, when it was deemed that I had done nothing wrong, so they were fully aware of the background.

    On 16th Jan 2009, I received a letter saying that the ISA had not yet made a decision and to enable them to ‘consider all aspects carefully’ they were provisionally barring me until they make a final decision one way or the other… that was 215 days ago, and I’ve heard nothing useful since then.
    The letter I got on 16th January pushed me over the edge (I’d already been waiting for 3 ½ months) and I attempted to take my own life. I spent some time in hospital and the ISA have been sent copies of the paperwork from the hospital to show how severely this is affecting me… yet still I’m waiting for closure, and my health is getting progressively worse.

    At that time, I also told my employer about the provisional bar (there is no requirement for me to do this, and the ISA *cannot* tell my employer until they make a final decision: if they bar me, they will inform my employer; if they do not bar me, they cannot inform my employer about any of this). My employer has now (reluctantly) suspended me; an impartial act in law, but imagine how that really feels to me – it’s like they’re presuming guilt.

    Remember… *if* the existence of the ISA is about implementation of a truly accountable means of protecting vulnerable groups and children, the ISA *must* inform my employer to meet that objective… after all, until they’ve investigated and found otherwise, they have no option other than to assume I pose a *risk* (otherwise, why investigate me)… and that’s what the ISA is all about, minimising risk by removing those deemed unsuitable.

    My employer has contacted the ISA to try and find out what’s going on… (it’s costing them a fortune covering all my classes) and a member of HR from my workplace has called me and said that she’s tearing out her hair because the ISA will tell them nothing: “yes, we are investigating that individual, but it’s not ISA policy to discuss cases with the employer until a barring decision has been made” is all she gets. Accountability… well, where is it for those that are tentatively connected and need to know what’s going on, so that they can make appropriate decisions?

    When I received the letter on 16th Jan, they also sent to me (as required by their policy) copies of all the information that they are using to make a decision… anything that they have, but do not send to me, they cannot legally use to make a barring decision. I suppose this is an attempt at them being accountable… more on this in a moment!

    Before anyone jumps to any conclusion about provisional barring and what that may mean in terms of ‘guilt’ or ‘danger; or ‘risk to young people’ – information I have received from the support team at “falsely accused carers and teachers” http://www.factuk.org suggests that 2/3 of those ‘provisionally barred’ DO NOT have that bar confirmed – they are, in effect, chewed up and spat out by the system.

    Back to accountability… the point I’ve been trying to make (to varying degrees of success) in most of my posts has been that no matter what the ISA is tasked with doing, it cannot hope to make decisions that are ‘accountable’ to anyone unless it works on reliable facts. When there are so many other agendas to be fulfilled by those who make referrals. In my mind, the approach that the ISA adopt automatically skews their perception. A big association, like the one that has referred my name has got much more clout and experience of this kind of thing than lowly little me and so know exactly what to say to skew perception.

    Let’s say (in the interests of justice) that the ISA investigate cases using a clear, impartial and objective approach. Surely, they should be actively seeking information from those who may be able to provide it (like my employer) about my behaviour and interaction with young people. After all, my employer has no problem with my work; they have no complaints about how I conduct myself and how I am perceived by my colleagues and the students I teach, or how I interact with them. Surely this would help them to build up a more accurate picture of me, and therefore allow them to make a more informed decision about suitability.

    There is absolutely no support or guidance provided by the ISA regarding what is required from an individual to help in the submission of representations against inclusion on the barred lists.
    Furthermore, if they are truly accountable (and presumably fully auditable) why have the ISA taken so long to deal with my case? Full accountability surely means that they are as accountable to me as they are to anyone else.

    Similarly, if the case is ‘complex’ or ‘requires careful consideration’… why is it, that each letter I receive is signed by a different ‘caseworker’ (that’s their real job-title – go figure, I think it should really be ‘civil servant’ – but they’re not civil servants ‘cos the ISA is independent – whatever!!!)
    So that’s where things are in my case… I think it clearly shows that the ISA is a dangerous farce, which cannot reasonably attain its objectives. It’s a waste of >£80m… and I think it’s for that reason alone that the Government will not see sense and abolish it.

    My conclusions on accountability…

    The ISA is not accountable. It cannot be. It does not support those whom it is investigating… so they either don’t know how to hold it to account or they can’t because they can’t get the information that they need to do so; but as Cosmo/James have said… is there any danger that I’ll put my head above the parapet when this is over, to take the ISA to task? No thanks.

    The ISA cannot be held to account if it gets a decision wrong (either way)… the appeals process sees to that in the case of those who it bars erroneously (I’m not even convinced that the legislation is tight enough to decide what an ‘erroneous’ bar would be).

    For those who the ISA investigates, but does not bar. It cannot be held to account should they subsequently commit a crime. The lack of accountability comes partly because of the differing evidential standards (much looser for ISA than criminal courts) but also… they only need say that “with the information available at the time, it was not deemed appropriate”. Following this, the Government will leap on the ensuing social paranoia and invent more ludicrous systems that, in time, will be shown to be just as ineffective.

    This ISA cannot be held accountable if someone who has never been heard of by them commits a crime against vulnerable groups (like the nursery workers recently reported)… after all, they’re neither listed nor have been investigated by the ISA previously.

    The ISA cannot be held accountable if someone who is listed commits a similar crime… they either committed it whist not in employment in a regulated position; or if they were in regulated employment, the employer has not carried out the required mandatory checks… either way, it’s not the ISA’s problem.

    To close, I agree with all that Cosmo and James have said.

    There is a need for an appropriate system that prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups. The ISA, as legislated, is not the answer. The ISA only serves to allow employers/voluntary groups/police/concerned individuals/Government to say “it wasn’t my fault, I reported my concerns” when it all goes wrong, and a poor child is seriously damaged or killed. The beauty of the legislation around the ISA is that it can absorb the misjudgements/errors of others (in either maliciously reporting or by not barring someone dangerous) and they all get away with it… after all, for those who find themselves in my position, “there’s no smoke without fire”.

    One of the major problems with the whole child protection industry is that people on the other side of the table from me do not see the snowball effect of their initial disclosure. In cases of someone that has doe something wrong, that’s fine. But increasingly, social paranoia means that those who have done nothing wrong are finding themselves in the middle of a rather large snowball. After all, why let facts get in the way of someone doing their job, especially when there’s precious little recourse for the wrongly accused?

  54. A brand new article by Joise Appleton on the ISA in case you guys missed it.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/earticle/7289/

  55. Pingback: Safeguarding Should Act Both Ways « Cosmodaddy

  56. The spiked article seems to miss the point that there is to be a phased introduction of the scheme, up to 2015, basically on the grounds of manageability. New posts first, then others to follow, controlled settings last in 2014-15. It will be possible after a certain date for people in existing posts to be checked on a voluntary basis but it’s compulsory for all after 2015.

    It’s no mess, it’s meant to operate that way. There will be the alleged anomalies for a time, but it simply would not be possible to do all at the same time. The ISA intent is new posts first, then those currently employed and not CRB’d etc. Anomalous for a time, maybe, necessary yes.

    The passage in the article: The ISA is driven by the same back-protecting impulse. The existence of this organisation comes out of an apparent mistake: that Ian Huntley, a school caretaker at the time of the Soham killings, was allowed to work with children. The result is that nobody now wants to make a decision about who to bar – not politicians, not the police, not social workers. So the buck is passed upwards to this mythical band of ‘safeguarding experts’, who in some darkened office block are supposed to make decisions that keep everyone safe.”

    This is such nonsense. The police never had a power to ban, nor social workers – would you give them that. Ministers did. Is that fine with you? Oh they had ‘advisers’ (civil servants and also outside people) but it was an ADMINISTRATIVE process not a judicial one. You happy with that too? ISA is a specialist body established by an Act of Parliament with rules of governance and of procedure. You say that is worse than a system of seven lists, ministerial decision which is not easily challenged and which breaches A6.1 into the bargain? It’s not a case of police, politicians, social workers not wanting to make decisions to bar, that was never their right nor duty, nor ever should have been. An Aunt Sally argument and yet the nub of the spiked argument here. Daft if not dishonest. The author tries to tell us it was an ‘apparent’ “mistake” that caused Huntley not to be identified as a risk – so we have two ‘apparently’ dead children. If it wasn’t an error, what was it? Deliberate failure to share the necessary information, couldn’t be arsed? Maybe just maybe.

    I’ve read the draft guidance – it is just that and stakeholders are being asked about it at the moment. It is a large document, and much of it looks to be available finally in smaller documents aimed at different audiences. I suspect quite a few changes will be be made in the detail.

    The criteria for dealing with referrals are not really set out though the process is. One thing it does say is that where ISA caseworkers (civil servants and all) look into allegations one of the things they have to satisfy is whether an alleged matter occurred at all – this is particularly where there is an employer reference or where others have made allegations. (Is a doctor a ‘civil servant’? A nurse?)

    I also note that there is auto-barring which is for defined serious offences (and replaces the current system of Disqualification Order), but there are some situations where this will not apply even though a pretty serious conviction exists. ISA will look at those cases before a decision to bar or not.

    The ISA system in fact replaces seven existing lists with the 2.

    I’ve also seen the ACPO guidance issued to police forces re gathering, recording and passing on soft intel. It’s very detailed, risk-assessment based. This means there is a single framework to be used by all forces. That should be an improvement.

    Rock-Bottom’s situation is one which occurs not only it seems with ISA but in the criminal law – allegations made but unreasonable delay in dealing with them.

    Article 6.1 of the ECHR has been shown to apply to ISA’s work already, quite rightly. I would think that it also covers unreasonable delay.

    What is the obligation of an employee to tell his employer of such allegations? None so far as I can see, indeed an employee may well harm their interests in doing so. It will be different where there are criminal charges, and some employment contracts may make this obligatory. But not in the case he describes however nobly-intentioned on his part.

    The dilemma faced by ISA is whether someone should be able to work whilst a case for barring is being investigated. Because it’s balance of probability, there is no option of ‘bail condition’ or ‘remand’ so what are the options? Not easy – the current criminal law will be unfair to every innocent person who suffers exclusion from work but it is accepted as necessary by courts for the protection of others. None of us like it, understandably. What is the solution in such cases where innocent people suffer?

    Myself, I believe the whole idea that an accused person’s status is known to all and sundry is obnoxious, probably a breach of A8. I think anonymity in all cases should be the norm. I don’t see a public interest argument overriding the right to privacy and presumption of innocence – our interests are represented by a jury or magistrates so far as hearing a case, and I feel strongly that only after a verdict should details be released on a guilty party, unless the acquitted person wants a restriction not to publish lifted. In all other cases it would be reasonable for anyone seeking to lift that bar to have to show why. (This is not the same as remand or bail conditions on someone’s movements or work or residence.)

    Should someone be stopped from working in situations where there are vulnerable people if there is an ISA investigation going on? The innocent are harmed if so, the guilty continue to have access. But because all child protection should be risk-assessment based, I cannot see why certain safeguards could not be introduced by the employer:

    – e.g. changes to work routine – the employee no longer works nights where there is a residential aspect requiring one person to oversee a situation, or temporary re-assignment – the chances of people suspecting something will be there but the employer has to keep mum

    – supervision on the employee is stepped up to an appropriate degree – also carries risk of workplace suspicion as does the next option

    – a form of special paid leave

    But I do ask why an employer should be allowed to get away with making allegations without subjecting the person concerned to the usual disciplinary procedures which can and do contain provision for suspension from work. Making allegations irresponsibly should not be made easier.

    I’d like to know what you all feel about the current pilots where parents etc can view approved information on prospective partners. One of the things being said is that the ISA scheme and CRB do not cover domestic situations. These 7 pilots have been created in the wake of calls for a Sarah’s Law etc to test out if such a system could safely be used without major abuse. The interim reports suggested a good use and other areas are now added to the pilots.

    You know as a lead-countersignatory in the CRB system I want to know that if I pass onto someone that an employee/applicant is barred that it has been done according to decent and rigorous standards, likewise soft intel. Time will tell if ISA fails on that, but I think the likelihood is that it will perform its task responsibly and that all this alarm will prove unwarranted, even if understandable. But Rock_Bottom’s situation should give cause for concern, I agree and it needs sorting out pronto.

  57. Jan, I’ve no doubt there are lots of things I’d like to speak about from that last post of yours, but initially – you keep highlighting things that were wrong with the old system pre-CRB and asking – are we happy with how it used to be?

    No, the pre-CRB system wasn’t perfect, but nor is this, and quite frankly, bearing in mind all that’s at stake, I’d rather us stick with the previous system until we find the perfect alternative.

    What makes you think that, just because a previous system had flaws, we’d want to jump over to yet another system where anomalies are being highlighted all the time?

  58. James

    Bichard identified a systemic flaw in the current CRB system and proposed this list idea to beef it up, so to speak. Waiting for a perfect system? There is no such thing. The only way is to identify a problem and then find a system to deal with that problem – that is what ISA is meant to do. What has to be done, as evidenced by Rock_Bottom’s situation, is to ensure it runs according to basic safeguards. And if CRBs are not actually needed as well as ISAs (and that is a matter for trial and debate) then I’d like to see any surplus-to-child-protection components dropped from the compulsory aspect of checks.

    For example, an employer employing a playworker will see the whole record of an applicant including past convictions for e.g. drink driving, petty theft etc as well as access to any information (including soft intel) about interaction with children. Some of this may well run counter to Rehab of Offenders (RoO) law intent but is lumped in with clearly relevant information which should be exempt from RoO law. ISA should deliver all necessary information about a person’s ability to work legally with children – not sure about all soft intel however on this. Should an employer be able to get the other conviction information which would normally be not disclosed because of RoO? I think there is a strong case for this to be questioned as ISA rolls out and is operational.

    ISA will need to learn, and has been shown already, that all its actions have to be tested against the ECHR – this applies to every public body but many yet have to learn they are not exempt or above it. That, alas, is a habit of all bureaucracies, fuelled as much if not much more by human error/ignorance/intent than systemic inadequacy.

    Look at youth curfews, ECHR-breaching at every step, struck down in the courts, yet still promoted by the same government which brought in the HRA. The only word they could use to justify this is ‘expediency’.

  59. Also Jan, I know it’s difficult for us all to reply to each others individual points and questions, but there’s one which I’ve mentioned a few times which seems to have been overlooked, and for me it’s the nub of my disagreement with the ISA.

    The ISA wont stop children being abused and it’s silly to suggest it will.

    Do you think paedophiles, for example will all of a sudden stop being paedophiles just becasue they failed to get ISA registration? Of course not – they still have access to children regardless of their occupation status.

    All the ISA can do, at the very most, is to minimise the risk of inappropriate relationships being born in the workplace, but as I’ve suggested before, surely that’s more about covering our backs than it is protecting children. How is a child being protected if someone with ill-intentions is stopped from being near them for a small part of the day at work. That’s not protection, that’s just moving the problem on, surely?

  60. James

    A perfectly valid point, already taken on board – EXCEPT no one will accept the idea that, just because you can’t prevent a problem in one setting you won’t do all you can to prevent it in another where you can.

    It’s simple – the child-caring workplace is where people will/must send their children for a wide range of reasons. They will expect, reasonably, that their children will be safe when placed in the custody of another adult. Also adults working with those kids will want, as a matter of decency, to ensure that all their colleagues are people who are safe to be near the children. This is not protecting backs as alleged, it’s plain professional good conduct.

    If you work in such situations, your first concern must be that safety of the child and also that children are not locked away. Remove the paedophile’s access. That is not simply a matter of getting CRBs ISAs etc. It does help the game if first you screen out the KNOWN people. But then it is a matter of good child protection practices – these are straightforward and they work when applied, and without children feeling they can’t trust adults who look after them. I have to say that the greatest threat to trust is when an adult whom the child should be able to trust, and who is paid to be trusted, turns out not to be.

    In such looked-after situations, there are no 100% safe systems, but most of us will go for 99.9% and want to work on the remaining 0.1% etc. (I am not saying, by the way, that there is or is not such 99.9% safety, who knows.)

    Now you want, as we all do, to see the overall problem tackled, of identifying paedophiles? Is that the task? We all have to keep looking for them under every bush? It won’t work for the reason it can and does work in the above limited child-caring contexts.

    It’s the unlimited contexts we all know constitute a problem which cannot be solved in the same way as the child-caring situations (even if the latter can embrace …. sport, school, activities, childcare, youth and junior clubs etc etc – the territory of CRB and ISA, respectively providing employers with known facts and barring those who are seen as posing a danger to kids).

    I have asked for views about the pilot schemes which do offer prospective partners information held about their intendeds which might suggest they pose a risk to kids – there are those, it seems, who seek out single mums with kids, and woo the mums to be able to access the kids …..

    There are many fears about such schemes – are they justified? What framework will be there for the Rock_Bottoms who find themselves accused? I am not sure, it seems to be a very different set-up to ISA, and I’m keen to see more detail about the scheme and its outcomes.

    But then beyond all that – what of the situations which involve kids but which are not able to be regulated to any great extent?

    Home – seen as where most abuse occurs and very hard to impossible to monitor except indirectly – children at school, in leisure etc, talking with friends (I have seen a situation where teen boys reported that one of their younger brothers had been told by his 8yr old mate that his older brother regularly raped him – interestingly, the word in the neighbourhood, which did not know of this report, was that dad liked rent boys and he suddenly left the family home about 3 weeks after this report – point being, events do come to light and can be investigated, but you need contexts where kids themselves can talk to people they can trust and where their stories are listened to seriously and where they are never told the trusted adult can keep such a revelation secret – and why.)

    Paedophiles seek opportunity – I suspect that keeping a shop is one route that is taken – David Lawrence whom I have mentioned before kept a shop (not sure what it sold) as well as being a junior soccer coach/ref and many of the reports the police collated referred to concerns at the number of boys who hung around it. I am pretty certain also that a well-known far-right organiser (you don’t hear about his lot or him these days, it’s the BNP instead) had shop and boys went in there a lot…. VBS for shopkeepers? Not likely is it, certainly as a requirement.

    There is a task to educate kids about such things, parents have always done this, but kids have fallen prey to situations. We need to face up to why kids find it so hard to talk. People talk of fear of reprisal (that’s real enough) but especially for older kids coming past puberty, then we have their own feelings and drives, which are confusing enough during parts of adolescence anyway without adults taking advantage.

    We need more adults kids can trust to talk to, especially where they cannot broach matters with their parents. Over nearly 30 years I hold a huge number of confidences put into my hands in trust. The vast majority nothing to do with any form of abuse or even a problem, just someone to listen and often say nowt, which does, for whatever reason, seem to help, so I’ve been told enough times. But in that context, things emerge from time to time which are serious and where real help is needed to protect a child. More such people needed in my view in our communities.

    But then the paedophile him(her)self. ID is the issue. If what he did was seen to be harmless, then it wouldn’t be unlawful so much as an affliction. But it is seen to be harmful (good reasons) and so, though s/he may be ‘ill’ in a broad sense (certainly abnormal in desires rather than the variation from normality some paedophiles like to promote), we will seek to apprehend and punish as opposed to identify and treat.

    Paedophiles do not come forward for help. There are many reasons but public hatred, the law etc are the main sticking point. Also, some do not see themselves as ill, just misunderstood. And once a paedophile is identified, taking on board the issues of punishment and rehabilitation, the jury is out on the question of risk. It varies from one to another.

    James, I don’t have that answer, though I think we are not thinking enough about these particular issues – so we lock up some who get caught but the rest just swim around in the pond under the surface out of sight.

    When caught can we send a message that would encourage others to seek help? So, if you accept that you need some form of help (treatment is a word I avoid because of medical ethics and the right to accept or reject), maybe criminal proceedings are stayed and a different regime applied, perhaps communities where such people can live in comfort, work etc, but where there is no access to kids at all – special gated communities which are not prisons? I don’t know to be sure.

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