Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 242)



  240. I can go to them.
  (Mr Bamford) In terms of these higher level certificates they are only available to bodies where you are entitled to ask what are called exempt questions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It can be people employing teachers, that sort of things.

  241. I am not talking about that, I am talking about the Sunday School and the position of the vicar and the Parochial Church Council.
  (Mrs France) You would perhaps have to ask the CRB precisely what the rules are. Our understanding is that the basic certificate is available to anybody. Any employer can ask any of us to go and get a basic level certificate and to provide it before we take employment or volunteer or do anything in fact. We can send for that certificate. That certificate will only show non-spent convictions and will not include any intelligence data.
  (Mr Bamford) To answer your question more fully, where a vicar is on his or her own the system may not be able to address this on a simple case by case basis. One of the schemes which have been established by the Police Act for the issuance of certificates is that there would be bodies who would handle requests on behalf of others, presumably ones who are less frequent requesters of the information, and they would be established essentially as a mechanism for putting your request through. I would suggest that if it were the Church of England, for the sake of argument, or any other particular faith, they would put themselves into these arrangements so the appropriate questions were asked if they were entitled to ask exempt questions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

  Chairman: May I just say to my reverend colleague that I would start with the church warden and, if not, the person who chairs the Parochial Church Council.

Mr Singh

  242. I listened very carefully to that exchange. If my vicar here gets a certificate which does not show non-spent convictions, one of which may have been harassment of a child or a woman, then my vicar sees the certificate, thinks he is a very good chap, knows he has been done for shoplifting but forgives him for that, gives him the job running the Sunday School, what is that certificate then?
  (Mrs France) These are not really questions for us. These are obviously questions about the way the Criminal Records Bureau has been set up and the Police Act has set it up and our understanding is that there are schemes which local churches could join. The point is that because we do not want—any of us I think—proliferation of the information related to these enhanced certificates, because of the sensitive soft information there, there needs to be a limited number of channels through which those pieces of information go. It is very likely—and it is more a question for the Home Office or more specifically for the CRB—that in those sorts of circumstances there will be ways of obtaining that information, but I would hope that vicars would not have copies of enhanced certificates and security information floating around the parish hall.

  Chairman: It was explained to us last week by the representatives of the voluntary organisations that they have a lot of experience of this and within communities there is a lot of information about. The Thomas Hamilton thing illustrates this well, where he kept applying to start a scout troop and because he had no criminal record at the time it was the perception that there was something wrong there and that system which prevented him doing it. He went and did it another way, but that is another story. Mrs France, Mr Bamford, thank you very much indeed for your help. It really has been helpful to us. We are hoping to publish this report very quickly, although I must say we achieved the main thrust of it just after our first evidence session finished.

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