Cost of vetting scheme in Cambridgeshire reaches �700,000

AROUND �700,000 is being spent annually in Cambridgeshire for the Criminal Records Bureau to carry out checks on those who have responsibility for or come into contact with children.

Former chief constable Julie Spence is questioning the cost of the service in such stringent economic times and says its impact on protecting youngsters is minimal.

The rigorous vetting scheme, launched in the wake of the Soham murders, is carried out in Cambridgeshire by a unit of 30 people - the same number of officers investigating offences against children.

Writing in the Telegraph Ms Spence says the murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in 2002 by Ian Huntley saw such an outcry that people convinced themselves that it could be stopped from happening again.

She said: “The result is not something that provides intuitive foresight, but often a time-consuming, bureaucratic process that acts as a comfort blanket - yet in reality has minimal impact on protecting anyone.”

Ms Spence says more rigorous checks on Huntley might have prevented him from taking up his job as caretaker of Soham Community college, as they would have revealed unproven allegations of burglary and sexual offences. Yet Huntley did not work at Holly and Jessica’s school, his link to them was through his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, who was a teaching assistant at St Andrew’s Primary School in Soham.

Standard checks look at the Police National Computer convictions database, while the enhanced checks, for those with greater contact and responsibility, look at convictions and information held on police intelligence systems.

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Ms Spence said: “The constant dilemma for the police is balancing child protection with ruining someone’s chance of employment. Criminal records, the sex offenders register, and the list of individuals barred from working with children do help agencies manage known offenders. But this is not the complete picture. Many unknown and unconvicted offenders are currently offending - yet to be caught and prosecuted.”