Nick Clegg reveals end of vetting scheme

Friday 11 February 2011 10:13

A vetting scheme that would have targeted more than nine million adults will be scrapped as the Government seeks to end a "13-year assault on hard-won British freedoms", Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today.

Only those working most closely with children or vulnerable adults will need to undergo a criminal records check and the results will be able to move with individuals when they change jobs, cutting down on bureaucracy, the Government said.

The current messy system that defies common sense will be "scaled back to sensible levels whilst at the same time protecting vulnerable people", Mr Clegg said.

The changes, outlined in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, aim to scale back state powers and reverse what has been seen as the widespread erosion of civil liberties in recent years.

More than nine million people working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults will be freed from the need to register and be monitored by the state following an overhaul of the checking regime, the Government said.

Rules covering the storage of innocent people's DNA will be tightened, with DNA profiles of those who have not been convicted only being held if they have been charged with a serious crime, and then only for three years.

Powers for local authorities to snoop on people suspected of minor offences will also be cut, preventing town hall snoopers from checking bins or using anti-terror powers in school catchment area disputes.

The Bill will also set out plans to regulate CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems for the first time, to outlaw wheel-clamping on private land, and to ban schools from fingerprinting children without their parents' consent.

It will also contain plans to make it possible for those with old convictions for consensual gay sex to apply for their record to be deleted from the police national computer.

Mr Clegg said: "Labour engaged in a 13-year assault on our hard-won British freedoms. The coalition Government is determined to hand them back to people.

"We inherited a messy criminal records regime that developed piecemeal for years and defied common sense.

"Our reviews concluded that the systems were not proportionate and needed to be less bureaucratic. They will now be scaled back to sensible levels whilst at the same time protecting vulnerable people."

The Bill, which could become law by early next year, will merge the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to form one criminal records checking service.

The number of jobs requiring checks will be cut and those working or volunteering with vulnerable groups will no longer need to register with the vetting and barring scheme or be continuously monitored by the ISA.

And anyone who knowingly requests unlawful criminal records checks will face penalties in a bid to avoid such situations as those where flower arrangers in churches have been asked for checks.

Home Secretary Theresa May called a temporary halt to the "draconian" vetting scheme in June last year as she launched the review, saying it was time to return to a more "common sense" approach which did not risk alienating volunteers doing valuable work.

Problems have included more than 12,000 innocent people being labelled as paedophiles, violent thugs and thieves through an error, councils banning parents from playgrounds saying only vetted "play rangers" would be allowed in, and parents running into difficulties when trying to share the responsibilities of the school run.

Children's charity Barnardo's said the move was a "victory for common sense".

Chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "There is already enough safeguarding in place for people who have unsupervised, substantial access to children.

"This approach will make it easier for grandparents, parents and neighbours, who should be able to play an important role in a child's life without unnecessary red tape."

She went on: "No system will ever entirely protect children.

"Employers will need to be supported to establish systems which will regularly check staff and volunteers who have substantial unsupervised access to children.

"However they shouldn't feel the onus is on them entirely, safeguarding is everybody's business."

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