The Metropolitan Police is one of the UK’s largest forces and covers most of Greater London. The Force hit the headlines recently when it was accused of cutting corners in its DBS checking process, with the inference that looser checks could be putting vulnerable children at risk. So, what exactly has been going on?
4.4 Million Annual Checks
DBS – The Disclosure and Barring Service – is the official body for running police checks on people in England and Wales who want to work in specific roles. Most of these jobs involve working with children or vulnerable adults in settings such as healthcare or education, but might also include people working in financial services or law. DBS receives 4.4 million requests for DBS checks each year. DBS doesn’t actually do any checking; this is the responsibility of the 43 separate Police Forces across England and Wales. The Met Police has consistently struggled with a backlog of applications, often missing targets to get forms back to the applicant within 60 days. As a consequence of these backlogs, new procedures for checking applicants were introduced in 2016.
Relaxed Police Checks
People applying to work closely with vulnerable groups have the most detailed level of checking. After the Soham murders in 2002, it was decided that when considering these detailed checks, Police wouldn’t just look at convictions, arrests and cautions but also other “Police intelligence” if relevant. This was down to the fact that the murderer in the Soham case had never been convicted or charged with offences against children, but several women and girls had raised concerns about him, and the Police held intelligence on file about him. Police make a judgement call regarding Police intelligence on a case by case basis; not everything will be released as a matter of course, it will depend on how relevant it is deemed to be. In 2016, the Met Police temporarily dropped these intelligence checks, reverting to checking just the cautions, arrests and convictions which appear on the Police National Computer.
Implications for DBS Holders
There are two ways of looking at the implications of this situation. Firstly, you may take the approach that any DBS check is only a snapshot picture of a moment in time, and no indication of any future conduct. DBS checking is only part of a robust whistle-blowing and safe recruitment policy, so not checking on police intelligence may not have affected the outcome of any recruitment decision. On the other hand, the knowledge that police checking might not have been as thorough as it might have been may lead patients, relatives or parents in a school setting to question the background of staff.
Getting a New DBS Check
DBS checks can be redone as often as an employer deems necessary, and as the Met Police failure to check intelligence only occurred for a short period, it might be worth running another DBS check, with the consent of the employee, or course. Going forward, consider the DBS update service, which instantly updates your record with new information.