January 13, 2009

The CRB rant. Issue 1

Writing about web page http://www.crb.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=0

The Criminal record bureau check. CRB. The dreaded multi-faceted form requiring information from the past 5 years of my life. Not content with this, they also require me to provide photographic evidence of myself, in the form of a passport or driving licence, my birth certificate, and something like a gas bill to prove that I live where I say I do.

Anyone on the medical course will have had to complete a CRB check before the started the course. In fact, now that we live within a society that is becoming increasingly paranoid about identity, I imagine more and more organisations will be requiring a CRB check for employees/volunteers. In theory, it is a perfectly acceptable concept. The potential employee applies to the CRB for disclosure, and the prospective employer then has access to any criminal record associated with the individual. This conveniently weeds out all those sex offenders and serial murderers who are applying for jobs that involve working with vulnerable individuals'. Now excuse me for lapsing into sarcasm and use of inverted commas so early in this rant, and believe me, this will be a long rant, but in the past 3 years I have had to apply for a total of 4 CRB checks, and I'm getting pretty fed up with them!

Rant number one: issues with the CRB concept.

concept number one: Who is a criminal? This is a concept that has been introduced to us first year medics in our epidemiology module as 'the disease iceberg'. You can see a bit of it floating on top (those who are diagnosed as having a disease) but there is a heck of a lot more of it under the water (those who have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed). In this case, the 'disease' is a criminal record (forgive the slightly inappropriate analogy). If you have committed a crime, and this has been discovered by the law, then you will have a criminal record. But, if you have committed a crime that has remained undetected, you have no criminal record, and so your CRB check will be clean. Which, in my opinion, practically renders the CRB check useless from the very outset. My example of choice for this issue is the one and only Dr Harold Shipman. I'm sure that, for most of his life, a clean CRB check would have been produced for this notorious serial-killer.

concept number two: Who is a vulnerable individual? Well, pretty much anyone if your criminal of choice is a gun wielding sociopath with a desire to kill, kill them all!! OK, I can see that this issue is only relevant in extreme situations, and I do acknowledge that those truly vulnerable individuals have a right to protection - and that is our duty to do that - but you do see my point? We are all of us vulnerable at times. Are we to require CRB checks in the future to allow us to walk out in public so that others in the street can be confident that we will not try to mug them? Will all those who wish to buy kitchen knives have to have CRB disclosure so that the seller can be confident they're not selling to someone who may have form for misuse of kitchen knives?

That's all I have time for today. I have the beginnings of a rather long CRB form to fill out...

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