In way or another the dreaded DBS checks have caused problems for nearly every driver. Most have had significant delays caused to applications – or even worse, renewals – because of the sometimes criminal delay in issuing them. More drivers than you might imagine have difficulties however, not only because of the delay, but because of what is on them when they arrive.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, formally known as the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, are now an essential part of most licensing applications. As mentioned last month, there is not actually a statutory requirement for them to be carried out – they have simply become synonymous with background checks. And background checks are an integral part of satisfying the good old “fit and proper person test”. I think I said everything I need to about that issue last month.
To the objective observer there must be perfect sense in this as a mechanism for checking on the background of a person. I don’t actually think many drivers would do away with them (although I accept I might be wrong – so please do not phone just to say so). But issues of speed and efficiency aside – nearly all would be staggered at the inherent inaccuracies on most DBS checks.
It is infuriating that so many of the DBS checks returned are inaccurate or highly damaging – in most cases unnecessarily so. There are two main reasons for this: the first is that they are based on police information, NOT court information; and secondly they rely on and include a great deal of “intelligence” information above and beyond verifiable facts.
The DBS system relies on information sharing. In other words, as always happened unofficially but was not accepted, now police forces and local authorities (among many other departments and agencies) officially share information on individuals. In circumstances where this information is a criminal conviction one would have thought the information sharing process was easy and would be accurate. This might be so if the information came from the relevant court. It does not.
The decision to include information in a DBS entry is made by the police force and is based on their file. The information in that file tends to be based on a vague and generalised case summary prepared by the officer in charge of investigating that case (the OIC). It is this summary which makes its way into the CPS papers known and the advance information (the AI) which is given to the court. Some officers do this well and in a neutral way. Most however, whether consciously or not, tend to show their partisan approach. The difficulty arises however after a case. If someone pleads guilty to an offence and is sentenced it is this case summary which often gets allocated as the summary of facts. However it fails entirely to recognise that throughout proceedings it often turns out that these facts are not correct. The system will not demonstrate this. In other cases the case summary is dispensed entirely and the system does not give facts at all. In many cases this can present a worse problem if a conviction gives the appearance of something worse that it actually was in fact.
Intelligence however is a far bigger problem. What happens if someone is acquitted of an offence OR indeed never faces charges at all. That person is not guilty. However police forces do not always see it like that and have over the last number of years taken the view that this information should also appear on a DBS. Your police force is supposed to contact you and ask you for your views prior to doing so. Furthermore they are supposed to provide you with the opportunity of making representations to them on the matter and are supposed to consider them. I will not comment on my view of this except to say that few people bother challenging them and so success rates are unclear.
In these circumstances you are faced with two problems. The first is that, again, the police write the information and so the vague and partisan nature of the information tends to do you no favours. That is also true of the conviction cases. The second problem however is that there is not a conviction i.e. no offence to limit the poetic skills of the police force. I have read many of these and in many cases where I have compared it to the version of events given to me by the driver it is plain someone is not telling the truth. Some examples are classic works of fiction. And because it is written by the police – who doubts it?
The sad reality however is that even those drivers who have something on their record tend not to care provided they get their licence granted or renewed. That is perfectly understandable. However, what happens when there is more than one entry on your record and the licensing authority start to make an argument about accumulation? Or what happens when the licensing authority changes its policy on certain issues? Well, what happens is simple – you suffer. And do not think this does not happen – it does. Also – do not think it does not happen to you – it easily could. For those of you thinking right now that you know who this applies to and that it does not apply to you – think again.
You all know how to get a DBS check done. If you do not the website GOV.UK gives very clear information on this.
My advice on this issue is: Challenge it. Do not ignore the issue simply because the licensing authority has granted you your licence. These issues return and challenging them later will not work.
You can appeal if you think that there is a mistake in the DBS certificate either in terms of the records provided (e.g. wrong or irrelevant information on convictions) or if the personal information is inaccurate. You must however report the mistake within three months of the issue of the DBS certificate.
Depending on which one of the above you are appealing there is a “certificate dispute form”. This also includes very useful details and guidance and a fingerprint consent form. This might be required in order to check identity if personal details are in issue. This form is used to challenge conviction information and information which was disclosed as “intelligence”. Once you have filled in personal details and identified the nature of the information in dispute you simply write the reasons for the dispute.
If you are not sure about how to go about this, seek advice. Remember however that the best time to challenge most of this information is when the police contact you for representations on their considering to disclose it within their own discretion. Make representations – or get a professional lawyer to do so for you. If you failed to do this or did not get the chance then challenge your DBS. Making sure that information on you is accurate is important. You would not accept it in any other scenario – don’t assume you have to with your DBS.
Article supplied by Stephen McCaffrey, Barrister
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