The grim consequences of CRB mistakes

Background-screen Last week I wrote a post about the Sun's revelation that in the past six years, 15,000 people have been incorrectly labelled as criminals and sex offenders after erroneous Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks.

However what that statistic (equating to seven wrong checks a day since 2004) doesn't show, is the human cost of having one's name dragged through the mud because of a faulty Government database.

Today, Kent Online has provided a perfect case-study of this cost:

A teacher has been left traumatised after his identity was confused with a convicted drugs offender. Gareth Thomas taught English at the Archbishop's School in Canterbury for seven years.

But he was left stunned when he couldn't return to the profession after taking a career break in 2007.

The reason was the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) found his details closely matched those of a man convicted and jailed for a drugs offence in Winchester 29 years ago.

The mix-up has left 58-year-old Mr Thomas, of Sturry Road, jobless and undergoing treatment for stress.

It is a double blow for Mr Thomas, who volunteered to work at Canterbury Prison as a Spanish translator and found his application blocked by the same case of mistaken identity back in 1995.

I have written before about the inadequacies of the CRB check – but this story crystalises the underlying problem: if you are going to have a check that is perceived as being the gospel truth on someone's personal history, it has to be as close to 100% fool proof as possible. And seven mistakes a day is certainly not 100%.

Once again, even if you have nothing to hide – when it comes to unwieldy, huge state databases; you always have something to fear.

By Dylan Sharpe