I add my voice here to the chorus of protests about the establishment of this new authority. Actually it’s not really the Authority I object to; we already have an unwieldy and ineffective system of checks on a whole range of individuals who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults and the Authority does provide an opportunity to consolidate their multiple efforts. What I really object to is the notion that these wholesale checks will do anything except bring a false sense of security to schools and services about their employees and volunteers and do nothing to prevent abuse or murders of children. The response is disproportionate as even the Chair of the Soham inquiry Sir Michael Bichard has said.
There are on average netween 5 and 7 sexually motivated child murders outside the family annually and the figure has not changed since the 1970s. That’s a tiny percentage of child murders, of which about 75% are perpetrated by parents. Most child homicides are within the family. The chances of having specific data to distinguish the dangerous stranger from the harmless porn watcher is small indeed. It is reckoned that there are between 3,500 and 72,600 children sexually abused every year, a figure range so wide as to be predictably meaningless. The likelihood of the offender being on the Sex Offender Register is small. The cost of the current checks is vast to both employers and employees; even a simple Criminal Records check costs about £34.
I have been involved in various organisations which are obliged to check the CR records of employees and the most damaging thing is not that you get a record of sexual offences but you get a record of ALL offences, shop lifting when the person was 14, minor fraud, pub brawls, mostly long gone youthful minor criminal episodes of no relevance to their working with vulnerable people but events that people have long put behind them but are now waved in front of them in applying for a job and now will apply to volunteers too. Would you want to risk a long forgotten misdemeanor resurfacing when you volunteer to ferry the club to swimming? Are we saying that we are going to discriminate in employment in education and health care against people like this? Yes we can and do through these new systems.
The answer to safeguarding children is to be vigilant, train children to be knowledgeable and for authorities to pass on information. Lots was known about Ian Huntley which could have protected the two girls but no-one thought it right to pass it on. This is a great mammoth overkill system which will cost us all dear and I’ll be amazed if it prevents one death.