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Archive for February, 2010

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

CRB Checks Reviewed

What is the point of them? Will they work?

What really gets to me is, there was a programme last week on this issue. The first thing they learned was, there were no figures on how many children were saved or helped by the checks now in place – let’s not forget: over 11,000,000 UK adults are expected to have their backgrounds checked now. Some because they are trying to gain jobs as teachers, some because they have children in a club and have offered to regularly drive friends’ children to the same venue.

The best that they could do was contact Childline, a UK charity for children to call when they feel threatened.

Childline checked the figures, and found that of 12,000 calls alleging abuse last year, 3 – yes, 3 – could have been prevented with the checks being imposed. No more.

The ISA and CRB checks wouldn’t have stopped Ian Huntley and the Soham murders, for example. He got access to his victims through his girlfriend, and the CRB checks specifically exclude partners and others in the same household. Many offenders are not strangers, but members of the family. CRB checks will not uncover them, either.

It is said that if one life is saved, it’s worth it – but is it? It’s a brilliant piece of political spinning. Automatically anyone who argues is put to the side as a deeply unpleasant person. Clearly all children are ‘innocent’ and should be protected.

Yes, they should be protected. But that does not mean it is right to impose a new bureaucrasy on the nation, affecting millions, without thought. Especially when the actual result may be disaster for hundreds or thousands of children each year.

Because we don’t know how many innocents are accused maliciously and see their careers blighted or destroyed.

It is already all too common in the UK to see teachers accused of inappropriate behaviours by children. Unsupported accusations can cause teachers to lose their careers, to lose their spouses, to see everything they have worked for being destroyed.

How many innocents is it acceptable to see ruined? No need for a court hearing, because these are simple administrative matters. But the long term impact is appalling, especially when the matters do get the attention of the English courts, because then all publicity is illegal and contempt of court. So an accused is not permitted to allow information to be released into the press that could, say, verify an alibi. It is illegal in case the identities of the affected children are released.

So the innocents are assumed guilty, denied the ability to defend themselves, and all on the word of children who may be acting from malice or a frivolous inclination. But those same devastated teachers may have their own children, who can be taken away from a supposed abuser. So, how many families broken apart, how many children ripped from their parents to live with single parent families or adopted because of these accusations, balances the death of the one child?

Worse, perhaps, are the families ruined because of clumsy clerical officers putting allegations against the wrong name. Data entry is inherently unreliable. Humans are fallible – especially those humans paid pathetic amounts to sit at a screen and input data. Incorrect data was logged against names 1,570 times in twelve months in the CRB to March 2009. That is 1,570 people who had to bear the horror of utterly unsupported allegations. Out of that number, how many will never again feel comfortable working in their career? How many will lose their spouse?

The damage done to innocent families outweighs the damage to one child, I’m afraid. It’s sad, but evil things will be done to kids.

No system of checks can work. We now have the most controlled society in the western world. Hitler and Goebbels would have been delighted to see how the English would embrace these new technologies. Computers cross referencing the locations of cars by number plate, checking where any mobile phone owner may have been at any time, the checking systems are pointless, foolish, time-wasting, expensive, and seriously damage our society by creating an atmosphere of distrust.

And now they stop authors from giving talks. Marvellous!

Now all writers are criminals

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


For some months now I have been negotiating with Caerphilly Library Service to go and hold a Medieval Murderers event with Bernard Knight for them.

It was to be a great little gig: Bernard and I always enjoy working together, and both of us like visiting different areas, but this would have been much more special. We were going to hold it in Caerphilly Castle. A great location for a talk, being atmospheric, scenic, and, most importantly for me, it’s one of the scenes for my next book. Number 29 will have a large chunk of action in and around the castle, because it was not too far from there that King Edward II was captured. Yippee.

But the show has been cancelled.

In the past I have cursed our modern nanny state and the way that there is an overriding presumption of guilt that pervades every aspect of life.

When I was a boy, I started carrying a penknife with me from the age of about nine. I cut myself many times, and learned to be more circumspect in the way I handled knives, and when I was (once) stopped by police as a teenager, my reason for owning the lock-bladed knife in my pocket was accepted by the officers involved – I used it to clean my pipe. Yes, even then I was a rebel and preferred a pipe to cigarettes.

In recent years, the number of stabbings has increased. Therefore, the government has made it illegal to carry knives with blades longer than three inches. Even folding penknives with locking blades are now illegal unless you can show you need it for work, or some similar excuse. I think it’s nonsense, but it does at least have the benefit of some logic. Knives can hurt people, so stop people carrying knives.

But the new laws don’t stop there. Now all adults, especially males, are looked upon as paedophiles in waiting. We are all suspects. And that is why I am fuming here as I write.

Because Caerphilly is cancelled, not because of anything I have said or done, nor because of Bernard – but because the Council has a “Corporate Policy” of demanding that all performers have a CRB check.

So now, CRB checks are to be used to prevent authors from going on a stage in front of consenting adults.

Well, it’ll leave the field open to a number of other authors, because I for one will not agree to paying for someone to go through my records and keep yet another reference to me on a database for no purpose.

Angry? Moi?

Get your criminology degree online.