Fair Play calls for CRB checks unit

The Criminal Records Bureau should set up a special unit to enhance child-protection, according to the director of a charity that manages checks for organisations working with children.

Jan Cosgrove, national organiser of Fair Play for Children, has written to Home Secretary David Blunkett calling for a new unit that would subject anyone working with children to a higher level of scrutiny than the current provision. The unit would carry out enhanced-level checks on anyone working with children, meaning any relevant information held by local police forces would be made available.

Cosgrove has also called for a database comprising information from police records, social service records and the Ofsted Day Care Register. In his letter, Cosgrove stated that murderer Ian Huntley may not have got a job as caretaker at Soham's Village College, had such rigorous checks been employed.

He said that a Home Office pilot scheme called the Voluntary Organisations Consultancy Service, which existed from 1993 until the creation of the CRB in 2001, enabled it to make checks on behalf of its members that equated to today's CRB enhanced-level disclosure checks.

The service enabled charities such as Fair Play, and a number of national voluntary bodies, to access police checks through a central clearing house.

They could also access lists held by government bodies such as the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills.

In his letter, Cosgrove outlined a case in 1997 where a junior soccer league in Bristol joined Fair Play and submitted the names of its league referees and coaches for checking. Avon and Somerset Police responded with concerns about one man who had been coaching children at the league for up to 20 years. He had been subject to allegations of sexual misconduct on several occasions and even prosecuted, but never convicted.

The league suspended the man in question from all duties, and 18 months later he was convicted on nine counts of sexual offences involving minors.

Cosgrove also wants to see proper training and advice on how organisations should act on such 'soft intelligence'. He said: "There is no code of practice at the moment. I wonder what someone would have done if they were faced with equally damning facts about Huntley."

A Home Office spokesman said that a database of soft intelligence doesn't exist because local police forces currently have different systems for collecting information.

An official enquiry into Cambridgeshire and Humberside Police's handling of the Soham murders begins this week.

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