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False records

From the BBC last Friday:

Nearly 200 people have been wrongly accused by the Criminal Records Bureau of having criminal records.

The names of 193 people were mistakenly linked with convictions held on the police national computer (PNC), BBC Radio Five Live has learned.

In some cases the names of those being vetted by the bureau were similar or identical to those of actual criminals.
In others, the criminals had given someone else’s personal details to the authorities to avoid a police record.

The Criminal Records Bureau, which came into operation in March 2002, does background checks on those who work with children or vulnerable people.

They made this number of mistakes (that they already know of) in the criminal record list, which is only a minority of the population. How many would they make if the list contained, or was supposed to contain, everybody?

What is scary about this kind of thing is when the information-that-isn’t starts to really get around, into several different data bases at once. At that point it becomes extremely hard to eradicate. Something like a false reading on sexual perversion (which is what these background checks for working with children and vulberable people are all about) is liable to spring to life again after previously having been eradicated, supposedly. After all, you can’t be too careful, can you?

4 comments to False records

  • Guy Herbert

    Neither new nor unpredictable, one fears.
    See here.

    Remember that there is, or should be, a distinction between criminal records of those convicted of crimes, and the recorded suspicions of policemen. To echo Douglas Hurd on secret intelligence reports, just because a copper’s opinion has been typed into a computer it doesn’t make it any more less liable to prejudice or error than if it is scribbled in his notebook.

    Then of course there is the problem with the PNC accurately reflecting the written records (correct or otherwise). It is generally thought to be not very good.

    However, the Home Office is not dismayed. This feasibility study indicates the general direction it would like to go in.

  • 193 “false positives” out of about 2.5 million checks.

    So how many “false negatives” does the CRB system produce ?

    How many paedos etc. have been wrongly given the all clear by the CRB ? Is it also about 200 or is it fewer or is it more ?

    Will Hazel Blears offer to resign if and when the next Soham murder type case crops up where the CRB checks have failed ?

  • David Wilson


    Just found your page and I have experienced this mistaken identity by the NIS and been wrongly identified with a convicted criminal with a similar name and date of birth – but absolutely no other similarities.

    I am trying to emigrate and was shocked when the report from the NIS came about a man who was convicted of fraud, serious assault and most distressing sexual assault!

    I found all doors for complant closed to me. I called the NIS and was told by an ignorant person on the phone ‘that’s your problem and it’s up to you to prove otherwise’. The Police where equally difficult to deal with. No lawyer would touch it.

    I then took it to my MP Mr James Wray, who wrote to Blunkett, who passed it to the Minister Bob Ainsworth, who then wrote to my MP, assuring him that it wouldn’t happen again. I then recieved a corrected document which stated I had no offences, and an apology for the error.

    That wasn’t the end of it though. On July 25th of this year I was stopped in a US Airport (after trying to collect an eticket from BA check-in, who instead of giving me a ticket held on to my passport and alerted and armed security guard) and prevented from boarding my flight to Gatwick for over an hour. A manager finally came and told me it was an issue between myself and my government, and let me board the plane.

    On arriving back in the UK I wrote to the NIS asking for justification of why my name is still being linked to this other person, and recorded proof of posting of my letter – Royal Mail tell me it was received on 30th July 2004. I never received any response. It was quite simply ignored. Today I believe there has been no change despite the intervention of Mr. Ainsworth.

    Once again I find myself needing to get a copy of this sheet and just today had a letter sent to me asking me severeal questions which relate to the other man. I have been told by someone in the legal profession that it is a ‘violation of my rights to privacy by government’ and that I could in fact have a legal case.

    Any advice would be appreciated. Right now I would just like to be at my liberty and enjoy my freedom to travel in the world without harrasment or any violation of my civil liberties.

    I am an honest person who has never been charged with any offence. The PNC and the actions of the NIS is an absolute disgrace – it would seem that a civil servant in London has more power than any Judge or Jury in the nation and has the ability to put one person’s criminal past on another. There is I have found no way to completly clear your name.

  • solano perez

    The New Jersey Dept. of Corrections maintains a webpage full of erroneous racial statistics and erroneous criminal history on thousands of people. When confronted with these matters the governor was too busy with his male lover to do anything
    about it.