An act of political bravery


by Rumbold
15th June, 2010 at 10:03 pm    

Theresa May, the Home secretary, has announced that the Vetting and Barring scheme is to be scrapped before it has been set up:

Nine million people who wanted to work with children or vulnerable adults would have had to register on the database, or face a £5,000 fine…

The scheme would have been run by the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Checks were to be made with the Criminal Records Bureau before adults could take up their posts.

Volunteers could register free of charge, while others would have had to pay a one-off fee of £64.

Why was this an act of political bravery? Because of the media reaction if something goes wrong. A government that cuts a scheme like this is open to attack if something happens to a child (or a vulnerable adult), which could have been prevented by the proposed database. And governments know that in media terms, it is better to be accused of interfering too much then failing to prevent something. The Telegraph headline to the story provides a good example, calling it an anti-paedophile database whilst putting ‘commonsense’ in quotes. Even if something happened that the database couldn’t have prevented, there would be blame attached to the government, because of people’s perceptions.

The current round of protection policies, crowned by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), is a case in point. This apparatus was set up after the Soham murders in 2002, which saw two schoolgirls murdered by a local caretaker. His violent past was not known to the school, and had it been, he would never have been hired. Therefore the system of CRB checks was designed to stop this happening again. What most people seem to have missed though was that a CRB check would have made any difference: the caretaker worked at a different school, so his position did not give him privileged access to his two victims. Yet it was enough that something had to be done, so it was done.

Last year around 15,000 people were wrongly branded as criminals by CRB checks, whilst many more were unable to start work as they had to wait months to get their cheques back. Children and vulnerable adults will never be completely safe under any system. The government needs to ensure that those who can do the most for these groups aren’t put off or prevented from doing so by bureaucracy and the fear of being branded. Well done to the coalition for taking this step.


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Filed in: Civil liberties,Current affairs






14 Comments below   |  

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  1. sunny hundal

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  2. David O'Keefe

    RT @sunny_hundal: An act of political bravery http://bit.ly/av5NVD


  3. TWEET POLITICS

    Pickled Politics » An act of political bravery: Why was this an act of political bravery? Because of the media rea… http://bit.ly/adk1lw


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  5. Marcel Duda

    Pickled <b>Politics</b> » An act of <b>political</b> bravery http://goo.gl/fb/XiKT3


  6. Denise Taylor

    Pickled Politics » An act of political bravery: Why was this an act of political bravery? Because of the media rea… http://bit.ly/bfo1hb




  1. KB Player — on 15th June, 2010 at 10:30 pm  

    After the Cumbria shootings this government did not rush to pass legislation, as I’m pretty sure a Labour government would have done. Perhaps it will be less in thrall to the tabloid demands that something must be done than the last government.

  2. MaidMarian — on 15th June, 2010 at 11:28 pm  

    KB Player – but post-Cumbria there were no tabloid demands, at least not on the level of Soham. It was a Conservative government that reacted to Dunblane with sweeping restrictions on hand guns.

    Rumbold – with respect, this is not a brave step. There will still be criminal record checks and there will still be lists of banned individuals. There is some spin here.

    Bravery would have been to go to the public and say explicitly, ‘we are not going to go all out to protect children because we – your government can not offer you 100% guarantees and we have no intention of making an effort because of civil liberty concerns.’

    This decision is stopping unpopular and expensive gold-plating. They are to be applauded for not pursuing a policy that was gold-plating. But this is not a triumph for civil liberties in the sense that this is not based on a positive civil liberty argument.

    The real test comes when the tabloids and victim groups start up.

  3. Philip Hunt — on 16th June, 2010 at 4:51 am  

    “Last year around 15,000 people were wrongly branded as criminals by CRB checks”

    Actually, if you read the article, that’s over 6 years. It’s still waaaay too much. And it’s probably the tip of the iceberg, since it only counts those cases where the authorities admit they got it wrong.

    I would imagine the consequences of being wrongly accused of being a pedophile or otherwise a danger to children would be quite unpleasant, certainly a lot more serious than the measely £115 “apology payments” the CRB is offering.

    And if the CRB makes that many mistakes I wonder how many people who really are a danger to kids are slipping through the net?

  4. Philip Hunt — on 16th June, 2010 at 4:53 am  

    @1: “After the Cumbria shootings this government did not rush to pass legislation, as I’m pretty sure a Labour government would have done. Perhaps it will be less in thrall to the tabloid demands that something must be done than the last government.”

    Or maybe Britian’s political culture is starting to grow up. Less kneejerk laws, and an acceptance that risk cannot be entirely abolished by government decree (or by any other means for that matter).

  5. Rumbold — on 16th June, 2010 at 8:26 am  

    KB Player:

    Let’s hope.

    MaidMarian:

    I agree that this government should go further. But it is politically brave to take even this step, as it puts them at risk, if something happens in the future. And they know it.

    Philip Hunt:

    Oops. Thanks for the correction.

  6. KB Player — on 16th June, 2010 at 11:27 pm  

    I should have said “the last Labour government” rather than “a Labour government”. As for the shootings – it’s terrible to say this, but the Hungerford & Dunblane shootings came as dreadful shocks – we thought things like that happened in the USA not here. We simply may have got used to this kind of thing happening in the UK.

  7. douglas clark — on 17th June, 2010 at 1:18 am  

    Rumbold,

    It might be brave, but it is right.

    There are other ways of dealing with lunatics such as Thomas Hamilton.

    We have aleady banned hand guns, we are already pretty strict on rifles. It is who has them, and to what end, that ought to exercise us, I think.

    It seems to me that communities should be able to make their own minds up about gun ownership. For instance rural communities might feel the need to have guns just because of vermin. I am thinking shepherds and foxes here. But there ought to be some sort of psychological or community criteria applied to gun owners.

    A chum of mine went to an old fashioned gun club, back in the day of hand guns. He said he had never met a scarier bunch of folk in his puff.

    He didn’t go back.

  8. Sunny — on 17th June, 2010 at 4:26 am  

    Sort of agree Rumbold, but Maid Marian makes good points. Would like to see how Tories respond in a storm…

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