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Criminal Records Bureau

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what penalty clauses exist in the contract with Capita for the operation of the Criminal Records Bureau; and if he will list occasions on which such clauses have been invoked. (75297)

Capita do not operate the Criminal Records Bureau. The disclosure service operates as a contract between the Criminal Records Bureau and Capita Business Services based upon a public private partnership agreement. Under this agreement, Capita are required to perform contractually specified Services and to develop, deliver and maintain the technical infrastructure of the disclosure service. This is to enable the Home Office to discharge its responsibilities under part V of the Police Act 1997 and other supporting legislation including the Protection of Children Act, 1999, to make available to approved organisations information regarding the criminal or related background of individuals.

Other services carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau that are not undertaken by Capita are carried out by civil servants and include the sensitive matching of an applicant’s personal details to records held on the Police National Computer (PNC) and other lists held by the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills.

A contract schedule sets out the service levels for Capita to meet. A further schedule sets out the service credits that apply should Capita fail to meet the agreed service levels. There is provision within this contract for liquidated damages to be charged in the event of late delivery to agreed changes in the service.

In each year since financial year 2001-02, the following payments have been received from Capita for service credits and liquidated damages:

£

2001-02

555,000

2002-03

1,718,000

2003-04

1,528,000

2004-05

53,000

2005-06

92,000

The hon. Member will appreciate that with a contract of this size and complexity, the CRB would not be able to list and explain the context of each occasion when service credits and liquidated damages have occurred without employing disproportionate resources.

However, as an illustration, between August 2001 and November 2001, liquidated damages were applied due to the delays in launching the disclosure service and some of the associated services. Subsequent service credits were also applied in 2003 for operational delays within the disclosure process. These payments relate to the early years of the service.

The contract was originally estimated at £400 million to run over 10 years. In each year since financial year 2001-02, CRB have paid Capita the following as service payments:

£ million

2001-02

12.1

2002-03

33.5

2003-04

58.5

2004-05

44.1

2005-06

47

There have been no performance related-payments made in any of the above financial years.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individuals have received an incorrect assessment from the Criminal Records Bureau in each year since its inception; and if he will make a statement. (77484)

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has issued 8.9 million disclosures since its launch in March 2002 to 31 March 2006. In that time, there have been 2,273 occasions where disclosure applicant details were matched by the CRB to a person with the same or very similar details who has a criminal record and, where the details had been challenged by the applicant, their dispute was subsequently upheld. The following table illustrates the breakdown, in each financial year.

Upheld disputes

Financial year

Number of disclosures issued

Number

Percentage

2002-03

1,441,704

256

0.017

2003-04

2,287,109

623

0.027

2004-05

2,434,290

761

0.031

2005-06

2,772,929

633

0.022

Total

8,936,032

2,273

0.025

These cases are clearly regrettable, but represent a very small proportion of cases—0.025 per cent. of the total number of disclosures issued.

CRB staff use searching and matching techniques and arrangements approved by police forces. As with the police, when making their decision they must bear in mind that the source of much of the information recorded on the police national computer (PNC) database is provided by the individual concerned at the time of his or her arrest. CRB have to consider that the individual may deliberately choose to give or, in the heat of the moment, may be confused and give incomplete or incorrect information. The CRB is acutely aware of the human consequences of making an incorrect matching decision and does not do so lightly.

There may also be occasions when a person’s identity has been stolen or their personal details used when someone else is in contact with the police. It is for these reasons that the CRB must err on the side of caution when an individual has the same or very similar personal details to those of someone who has a criminal record. This is because it is better to be safe than run the risk of letting an inappropriate person through.

When a disclosure is disputed the only safe way to resolve the situation is by asking the applicant to have his or her fingerprints taken at a local police station to help either confirm or overturn the original matching decision. There have been instances where the fingerprinting procedure has confirmed that an individual who has challenged the accuracy or the validity of the conviction information has been subsequently proved to be the owner of that conviction record.

The CRB will always apologise if the original matching decision is later found to be incorrect. In the event of a dispute the CRB notifies the prospective employer who would be aware of the CRB’s code of practice that asks them not to take any precipitative action and defer any employment decision until the dispute is resolved. When a disclosure is disputed the CRB will inform all parties that this is the case, including the employer. Where the information contained in the disclosure is found not to relate to the applicant, a fresh disclosure will be issued free-of-charge to both the applicant and the registered body. 90 per cent. of disputes are resolved within 21 days.

A public consultation exercise was conducted in October 2003 about making greater use of fingerprinting at an earlier stage in the application process and to aid the matching and decision-making procedures. The overwhelming response was not in favour of such a measure.

It is worth noting that under the previous police checking arrangements, individuals were not able to see the criminal records information disclosed about them. The information would have been passed only to the prospective employer and not to the job applicant and the prospective employer would have had no obligation to pass on the contents of the information to the individual.