Home Office refuses to apologise after 3,000 are wrongly labelled criminals

John Reid, the Home Secretary, faces another daunting week as he tries to rebuild confidence in his beleaguered department after a series of crises.

Mr Reid's baptism of fire since moving to the Home Office in this month's Cabinet reshuffle continued yesterday when it emerged that the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) had wrongly labelled up to 3,000 people as criminals.

Several hundred people had similar names or dates of birth to real offenders but were turned down for jobs or university places because it was thought they had committed crimes involving theft, robbery and pornography.

Some innocent people had to be fingerprinted at their local police station to prove that they were not criminals. The Tories said the victims might be able to sue the Home Office for compensation.

Mr Reid asked "tough questions" of his officials about the scandal yesterday. The Home Office said the mismatches were "regrettable" but stopped short of apologising.

Mr Reid also asked for a report on his department's troubled Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which suspended a 53-year-old chief immigration officer after newspaper allegations that he asked an 18-year-old Zimbabwean rape victim for sex in return for helping her claim asylum.

Today, Mr Reid will try to fight back in a speech to the Parole Board in which he will promise to "rebalance" the criminal justice system in favour of the victims. He is considering including victims or their representatives on the panels which decide whether prisoners should be released.

Tomorrow, the Home Secretary will be quizzed by the Home Affairs Select Committee about the fiasco in which 1,023 foreign prisoners were released without being considered for deportation. He is expected to reveal new information about what went wrong.

On the same day, Mr Reid will address the Association of Chief Police Officers, who want him to slow down plans for mergers of the 43 forces in England and Wales. On Wednesday, he will launch a nationwide knives amnesty.

The CRB has a contract with Capita, the IT systems, to update its systems. Capita's founder, Rod Aldridge, resigned as chairman in March, denying suggestions that his £1m loan to the Labour Party helped the company win lucrative government contracts.

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: "The refusal of ministers to face up to their own responsibility and to allow this dreadful practice to continue is not just a failure to do their duty; it is a willingness to perpetuate a serial injustice."

Nick Clegg, home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: " While dangerous criminals are allowed to walk freely in our communities, innocent people are being given criminal records and prevented from getting on with their lives. This latest fiasco will erase the last bit of public confidence in the Home Office."

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, defended the CRB, saying: "This is not about unsuitable people being allowed to work with children, this is about erring on the side of caution and people who are suitable being caught up in the system."

The Home Office said the number of mistakes that were naderepresented 0.03 per cent of the nine million disclosures issued by the CRB since it began operating in March 2002 and were a result of "mismatches" which arose during checks on people applying for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults.

A Home Office spokesman said that 25,000 unsuitable people were prevented from gaining such positions last year.

His bulging in-tray

* FOREIGN PRISONERS

Mr Reid will update a Commons committee tomorrow on the progress in tracking down 1,023 released foreign prisoners not considered for deportation. He must explain the lack of co-ordination between the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Prisons Department

* IMMIGRATION

The troubled Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) was hit by " sex for asylum" revelations yesterday. The Tories want to know what ministers did after similar allegations earlier this year. Mr Reid will also face questions over whether he misled people after five illegal immigrants were discovered cleaning an IND office last week

* POLICE

Mr Reid will be in "let's talk" mode when he addresses the Association of Chief Police Officers tomorrow. They will press him to slow down the merger timetable for about 25 of the 43 forces in England and Wales

* HUMAN RIGHTS

Tony Blair wants Mr Reid to review the Human Rights Act to possibly give more weight to protecting the public. He wants to look "tough" without alienating civil rights campaigners

* MINISTRY STRUCTURE

Officially, Mr Reid is concentrating on putting the Home Office to rights. But he will have to consider whether the apparently "dysfunctional" department should be broken up.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests