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Almost 200 Brits have been wrongly labelled as criminals because of mistakes in records. By incorrectly linking 193 people to various crimes recorded on the police national computer (PNC) the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) may have inadvertently blighted the employment prospects of scores of innocent individuals. The Criminal Records Bureau vets the records of people hoping to work with children or vulnerable members of society.

Some of the mistakes are the result of clerical error while others are the result of offenders giving false details to police in an attempt to avoid getting a criminal record. The errors cover a period between January 2003 and February 2004.

The Home Office said the mistakes involved only a "tiny percentage" of the information processed by the CRB. The Bureau performed more than 2.5 million checks last year.

The errors emerged in a written response to a parliamentary question by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten MP. Home office minister Hazel Blears wrote: "The CRB has matched 193 disclosure applicants to conviction information held on the PNC, which have subsequently been found to be incorrect."

A procedure exists for individuals to challenge any CRB findings but this is far from straightforward.

The issue is the latest problem to hit the Criminal Records Bureau since it began operations two years ago. Delays in carrying out checks meant some teachers and care workers and teachers started work before they were cleared.

The Home Office told the BBC that backlogs are been cleared up with 84 per cent of checks carried out within three weeks. A National Audit Office (NAO) report to parliament in February concluded that a failed IT project for the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in 2002 will result in a £68.2m bill for British taxpayers. ®

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