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CRB checks and "Secret" letters

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Chris Vallance | 09:57 UK time, Wednesday, 29 July 2009

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Last year over 3.4 million people had Enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks. In most cases both the applicant and the employer will see the information supplied by the police, but that's not always the case. In some rare instances a Chief Officer of Police may write a letter to the employer containing "additional information".By law the applicant isn't allowed to know the contents of the letter, and CRB guidance tells employers not to disclose its existence. Last year, the Home Office tells us, 235 of these letters were sent.

One of our listeners who works as a manager in the public sector is concerned about this process. He feels it places people who have to make employment decisions based on CRB checks in a difficult situation. He emailed us to say:

"In effect information that has not been subject to full investigation or
prosecution is contained in these letters, the employer has no opportunity to verify the information and more importantly the individual concerned has no opportunity to challenge. If people are concerned about the human rights issues of the CRB system then I suggest they pay some attention to what is really happening in the name of safeguarding
"

But the "additional information" system is intended for use only where the consequences of revealing the information would be grave, such as jeopardizing a current police investigation. If we imagine a scenario in which someone currently subject to a covert police operation were applying for a job, it's easy to see why not all information can be disclosed to the applicant.

So are these letters and erosion of the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" or a necessary part of protecting the public? We're looking at the "additional information" system on iPM this week. If you've something to contribute please do leave a comment or email us at ipm@bbc.co.uk

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