Friday, 13 November 2009

When is a Criminal not a Criminal?

Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne has discovered that large numbers of people are disputing the findings of criminal records checks.

The figures, revealed in a Parliamentary answer, show:
15,320 people have disputed their criminal records check since the CRB was launched in 2002/03

A record number of people (2,509) were involved in a dispute with the CRB last year (2008/09)

This is more than double the number of disputes in the CRB’s first year of operation (there were 1,111 in 2002/03), though the proportion of disclosures being disputed has fallen

Disclosures can be disputed if your name is the same as a criminal, if inaccurate information is held by the police or if you are the victim of identity fraud.

For me, this gets to the heart of the problem of Governments with huge databases of information. Even in the hands of entirely benign Ministers, the information can be flawed or misused. It will also not be secure, as has been shown by the repeated losses of data in cabs, in the post, on trains and in the street. The red tape and bureaucracy that an individual has to go through to correct information about themselves can in some cases be practically impossible and take years. The latest database that the Government wants to set up is one that will have all emails, phone records and website visits of everyone in the UK. If this gets any serious press attention at all, I am sure the justification will fighting terrorism. But defending freedom by taking it away is no justification at all. Our freedoms have been systematically eroded by Labour in the name of their protection. The Tories are no friends of freedom either. Have a peek at their last Criminal Justice act in 1996, and discover that they effectively removed the right to assembly amongst many other things. Our freedoms have been hard won over 1000 years, and we let posturing Ministers out tough each other and take them away at our peril.

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