Sarah's Law review skewed by handpicked sample
Home Office research raises questions
However, the police process throws up an intriguing anomaly, as the report reveals. After an initial application is made, step two is for police to trawl the PNC, sex offender and local criminal intelligence data in respect of the subject. Step four – after preliminary trawls have been made and possible flags set on these databases registering the fact of a check – is to decide whether or not the application is valid and falls within the scope of the CSORD.
On the same page, the researchers play down the finding that 18 per cent of applicants had applied to the police despite "having no particular concerns".
In other words - exactly as critics have claimed - it is possible for a sex offender check to be raised on the basis of simple curiosity. Assuming that the PNC and other official bases retain an audit trail of checks made, the fact that an individual has been checked will go on their record – ready to trip that individual up should they ever wish to apply for a job working with children in the future.
So, someone who has no history as a sex offender could generate a profile in the system as a result of repeated baseless inquiries - just as credit checks become a "fact" on credit databases even when there is no other source of concern over an individual's creditworthiness.
Last word to our blogger:
No data protection analysis or privacy impact assessment was made during the pilot with respect to disclosure. I believe the research does not provide a reliable basis for extending the scheme nationwide and that the disclosure procedures adopted by the police in relation to disclosure are flawed. Instead of a national roll-out (which risks being disastrous if it drives sex offenders underground), a more in-depth pilot is needed; one which includes some very important data protection considerations.