CRB Check Backlash

Against stupid CRB checks:

Last January, Annabel Hayter, chairwoman of Gloucester Cathedral Flower Guild, received an email saying that she and her 60 fellow flower arrangers would have to undergo a CRB check. CRB stands for Criminal Records Bureau, and a CRB check is a time-consuming, sometimes expensive, pretty much always pointless vetting procedure that you must go through if you work with children or “vulnerable adults.” Everybody else had been checked: the “welcomers” at the cathedral door; the cathedral guides; the whole of the cathedral office (though they rarely left their room). The flower guild was all that remained.

The cathedral authorities expected no resistance. Though the increasing demand for ever tighter safety regulation has become one of the biggest blights on Britain today, we are all strangely supine: frightened not to comply. Not so Annabel Hayter. “I am not going to do it,” she said. And her act of rebellion sparked a mini-revolution among the other cathedral flower ladies. In total she received 30 letters from guild members who judged vetting to be either an invasion of privacy (which it certainly is) insecure (the CRB has a frightening tendency to return the wrong results) or unnecessary (they are the least likely paedophiles in the country). Several threatened to resign if forced to undergo it. Thus began the battle of Gloucester Cathedral, between the dean and the flower guild, a battle which is just reaching its final stage as The Spectator goes to press. First the guild asked why the checks were necessary. The answer turned out to be that the flower arrangers shared a toilet with the choirboys, and without checks there would be “paedophiles infiltrating the flower guild.”

I wrote about CRB checks in 2008.

Posted on December 13, 2010 at 6:42 AM60 Comments


james December 13, 2010 7:11 AM

It is really difficult to judge another persons character, and I wouldn’t doubt that stress in any given situation can alter someone’s character.

I think if criminal record checks are required for past sexual offenses in high risk sexual offender areas, people should consider more than their pride.

It’s good to know that the procedure is a lengthy one, and that their privacy is to one degree or another protected now. I don’t see how a procedure which is looking for a very specific piece of information is violation of privacy, so long as the check is for specific information relevant to the situation.

james December 13, 2010 7:24 AM

Continued… after reading your essay about instilling fear and the false positives. I have to wonder if in the wrong hands the CRB is a witch hunt. I’ve got no answer for that one…

Another Kevin December 13, 2010 7:24 AM

@James –

But – “because they share a toilet with the choirboys?” This requirement is a little like requiring a CRB check to use the commuter train because children use the public toilets in the station. Is that sort of society where we want to go? (You know, with the proliferation of “well, it’s for the children, and it’s a minimal invasion of privacy anyway” arguments, I suspect the rhetorical question isn’t quite rhetorical. It may be where broad society does want to go. $LC_DEITY help us all.)

Gagata December 13, 2010 7:34 AM

The pedophile hysteria certainly affects me. I am a 30 year old male, and if I go down to the beach in summer to watch the sunset and I see mothers with young children swimming, I will walk away to try and find another spot. I find that if I stand there for more than a few minutes, the mothers will start looking oddly at me.

TyroneC December 13, 2010 7:35 AM

Worse still if you want to be, say, a voluntary musician in a UK prison for their Sunday services.

Despite having no unsuperised contact with prisoners, you are tainted as being involved with Chaplaincy. This leads to a higher level security check than prisoner officers.

–You need CRB — because there are vulnerable people in prisons

–You need CTC (counter-terrorist check) — because you may be a terrorist; so many religious musicians are

— And you will soon need ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority’s Vetting and Barring checks) — because adding an extra agency is always the safe option

The clearances from these agencies last differing durations, and you need them all. So you can predict pretty well that a large percentage of your time after the first year or so will be spent kicking your heels again while one or more of the expired clearances are renewed. (Target times for CTC for example is 10 weeks; but as governors will tell you, six months is typical).

Jules December 13, 2010 7:39 AM

CRB checks are required where people have unsupervised access to children and is supposed to be risk-based. Clearly the cathedral authorities have no concept of risk and are applying the rules to everyone, however unlikely they are to have unsupervised access to children. Under their rules, everyone in the country would need a CRB check! The frustrating thing is that there will almost certainly be another church or cathedral that has not thought of the risks at all and does place children at risk.

There is similar stupidity going on over the banning photos and videos of school nativity plays for “data protection” reasons.

BF Skinner December 13, 2010 7:46 AM

“criminal record checks ”

Epimetheus. Capt. Hindsight. Post-cognition

A records check lacks predictive power.

Though many with criminal records (and some records don’t include arrrest only conviction) are recidivist.

It’s not able to predict the potential criminal behavior of someone without a record.

Probably need some sort of implantable brain scanning thingy. Make people go through every possible permutation of life event and measure the result.

Couldn’t they just do away with, uh…stop using…uh uh…no longer accept the services of the….uh… choir/alter boys?

ab December 13, 2010 8:28 AM

“…or unnecessary (they are the least likely paedophiles in the country)”

If that is so then I guess Anglicans (assuming that is what they are) are different from Catholics…or at least the Catholic priests.

J G Sukhbir December 13, 2010 8:34 AM

This is all part of the creeping erosion of privacy rights. Every time they implement additional controls like this, a little bit of our liberty gets eroded. What’s next? A CRB check to get an Oyster card? Because children use public transport too.

bob December 13, 2010 8:35 AM


Of course it’s not.

One thing we in the western countries are very clear on: every adult has the right to have children however abusive such a relationship might be.

If later on you are found to be physically abusing your child (notice it’s irrelevant if you have a history of abuse) your child can be taken away from you.

If your abuse is emotional or through incompetence then you can have as many more children as you want.

Nobodyspecial December 13, 2010 8:42 AM

These are all women in their 60-70s.
The clergy don’t require CRB checks for their normal God bothering job – although they do for running youth groups etc.

The CRB only lists convictions, so the Police did famously send a bunch of officers around to a school when they discovered the headmaster’s fine for an expired fishing permit years earlier – but as long as rapist priests were quietly moved on with no prosecution then the CRB is useless.

Carl December 13, 2010 8:52 AM

@ Bruce (from his 2008 post) “CRB checks don’t keep child predators away from children. And even worse, this bureaucratic process fosters an atmosphere of mistrust among parents, teaches parents to ignore their own intuitions about other adults, and limits children’s activities as organizations find CRB checks too cumbersome.

Effectiveness first. CRB checking does not guarantee that only non-predatory adults interact with children. At best, it only protects children from recidivist predators. This is a real risk but less than first-time predators, predatory relatives, or predators they come into casual contact with. ”

More of the same from you eh Bruce? Similar argument to the one you put forth against AIT machines, namely “they cant guarantee total safety, so why bother?” and “parents (passengers) should be able to figure out who the pedophiles (terrorists) are”

The reality is, these kinds of laws (Megans law for ex) are inacted to protect children. No law is perfect in it’s application, instead of taking sneering potshots at it, why not use your security intellect to improve it?

MarCon December 13, 2010 9:17 AM

@Carl: even all of Bruce’s intellectual power wouldn’t be enough to un-stupid so many people.

BF Skinner December 13, 2010 9:22 AM

re: fosters an atmosphere of mistrust among parents teaches parents to ignore their own intuitions about other adults

Pedophilia recidivism rates, sex offender rates in general, are lower if the offender has undergone treatment.

Adult intuition has not been very good to begin with their sample of human adult aberent behavior is too small. While they qualify as that group of people Bruce has previously identified as being able to notice something hinky it’s not the other adults they should be looking at but their kids. Where I grew up (middle class suburb) we knew where the perv lived. The word was passed among all the kids on the block. I understand the adults didn’t find out until decades later. We stayed out of his house.

Justin Berry’s mother was destroyed by what happened to her son, in her own home, when she herself was a social worker who worked with abused children.

kog999 December 13, 2010 9:28 AM

To me sounds like this is not about protecting children but protecting themselves. Yes, i’m sure the chuch doesn’t want harm to come to kids but thats secondary to making sure it doesn’t get sued. by running these checks on all employee’s if something does happen however unlikly they can say look we did everything we could the background check came back clean so we couldn’t have possibly known what would happen.

dogo December 13, 2010 9:33 AM

Carl, are you paid by the TSA to respond to this blog? or do you make up their shallow arguements for free. and don’t take this comment down for nameing someone, unless you do the same for Carl.
he always addresses Bruce, and contributes his consistant knockdowns, mostly neither funny or helpful, always with the point that people should giveup all rights to freedom or privacy. This may be the bushist trend in government, but its distinctly unamerican. 25 percent of any population is subconsiously facist, authoritarian so there will always be some of them. but I disagree with “another kevin” that broader society is willing or wants it.

Andre LePlume December 13, 2010 9:35 AM

kog999 nails it.

At least in the U.S., this is so they can say “we did all we could”, and thus not be nailed for negligence should anything happen.

The cheaper it gets to do such a check, the worse this nonsense becomes, of course.

atis December 13, 2010 9:40 AM

Strange, I today found out that my schoolmate and friend has been arrested for suspect in pedophilia.

He had no criminal record nor any strange behavior (except for being computer geek as we all are).

If there would be anything to detect such tendencies it would have to be deep psychological evaluation, which is not exact science and would probably have high mistake rate.

MarCon December 13, 2010 9:45 AM

@atis: the biggest risk factor, from what I understand, is having been abused as a child. End child abuse and the pedophilia rate would probably shrink as well.

Olaf December 13, 2010 9:47 AM

“…without checks there would be ‘paedophiles infiltrating the flower guild.'”

Oh, yes, the evil is everywhere. Each time I read or hear something paranoid like this I have to think of Colonel Maddox from “1941”:
Troops? It’s a practice bombing range in Barstow in the middle of the desert. What’s he want troops for? Give me that.
“Request emergency troops. Invasion imminent. Suspect hidden Jap airfield in Pomona alfalfa fields.”

And I am reminded of that fine film so often…

Brandioch Conner December 13, 2010 10:24 AM

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just require that parents never leave their children unsupervised?

Rather than investigating everyone who might have contact with an unsupervised child.

It’s easy to fall for the “we must watch out for bad people” but difficult to mandate “good people must always be good”.

nobodyspecial December 13, 2010 10:31 AM

@Brandioch – except that almost all child abuse is by parents.
It would statisically be much safer to just leave your kid with some random stranger

baldywilson December 13, 2010 10:33 AM

“The reality is, these kinds of laws (Megans law for ex) are inacted to protect children.”

No, the reality is, these kinds of laws are enacted to protect politicians. I very much doubt that the protection of children could be further from their minds.

And don’t even get me started on that horrendous ‘Megans law’ that is starting to get some traction in the UK.

Grumpy December 13, 2010 10:45 AM

@MikeB: it isn’t and it should be, for the whole family. One black sheep and no reproduction license for YOU. [/joke]

I read somewhere that around 90% of sexual abuse of children is committed by someone the child knows, most often a family member either in the same household or living elsewhere. But let’s spend enourmous amounts of money on the other 10%, it’s not as creepy…

Bob December 13, 2010 10:58 AM

The cathedral dean and the other folks involved in this decision must have been in an ivory tower a very long time, far away from daily parish activities.

I’ve attended many Protestant churches, from hand-waving, tongues-talking Pentecostal to high-church Presbyterian where a robed beadle with led the processional with a staff. They all had one thing in common. Everybody from the senior pastor to the janitor knew: “Don’t screw with the church ladies.”

peter December 13, 2010 10:58 AM

@grumpy I read somewhere that something like 90% of statistics cited on the Internet are made up on the fly!

RSaunders December 13, 2010 11:19 AM

@kog999: Absolutely correct. As long as “doing something” can serve as excuse for a bad outcome, this sort of misdirection will abound. We either have to accept risks, and not punish the Gloucester Cathedral if some paedophile flower guilder turns up, or we have to find a reliable means of detecting paedophiles. The latter has been pursued by psychologists for decades, with no real success. I, for one, are willing to accept the risk. That said, if the Gloucester Cathedral were forced to choose between presuming all it’s contributors had a reasonable and realistic view of risk and presuming that this sort of security theatre would work – only a ninny would pick against security theatre. We don’t see it because the managements involved are trying to be duplicitous and sneak one past us. We see it because the managements involved are correct in their assessment that most people have no concept of the cost/risk relationships involved.

We can’t protest against them for being right when they think the risk of blame is more manageable than the risk of paedophilia.

Seiran December 13, 2010 11:54 AM

We have a similar thing going on in the United States. The school districts, at least the ones I know of, want state and federal fingerprint background checks on every non-student with access to school grounds (as if students are somehow less likely to offend). This includes not only the actual school staff, but vendors, guests, parent volunteers, and coaches/staff of any sports team practicing on the school fields.

Carl December 13, 2010 12:04 PM

@togo “point that people should giveup all rights to freedom or privacy.”

“All”? dont recall making that statement. The “All” part comes from (in general) Libertarians that lable any inconvenience as “All”

“but its distinctly unamerican.”
The argument on govt vs individual rights has been going on since the first individuals landed here. It is a very american discussion

“25 percent of any population is subconsiously facist, authoritarian so there will always be some of them.”

really? I agree with @peter, “I read somewhere that something like 90% of statistics cited on the Internet are made up on the fly!”

dogo December 13, 2010 12:18 PM

The bill of rights is the sine qua non of the US Constitution, without these amendments the states would not be united from about 1789 or so. Unlike the supreme corrupt who gave us the bush coup d’etat, I find the bill of rights very clear in its meaning, My right to privacy is in the 9th amendment. the 9th amendment and the 10th are not recognized by the supreme corrupt.
Your right, I read various statistics found on google under “fascist” and still I belive Mark twain was onto something when he said there are three kinds of lies, white lies, damn lies and statistics.

Nick P December 13, 2010 12:44 PM

“The answer turned out to be that the flower arrangers shared a toilet with the choirboys, and without checks there would be “paedophiles infiltrating the flower guild.”

Sounds like the start of a Dumb Laws or Dumb Criminals column. I mean, did anyone else think that sounded retarded?

BF Skinner December 13, 2010 12:50 PM

@peter, “I read somewhere that something like 90% of statistics cited on the Internet are made up on the fly!”

Oh so bogus! Rounding is such a dead give away.

I think you meant of course 93%. I remember hearing that somewhere. It was when I was at school in the “College of What Some Guy in a Bar Once Told Me”. I am studying for a degree in “What Everyone Knows.”

Dirk Praet December 13, 2010 3:13 PM

In my opinion, such aberrations are pretty much symptomatic of outrage induced paranoia resulting in hysteria rather than security. Since when has “innocent till proven guilty” changed to “everyone is suspect until proven otherwise”. Again nothing more than theatre directed against those least likely to take a stand against it, i.e. the general public, psyched into believing this is good for them.

Personally, I don’t really mind if a background check of an individual (or organisation) is performed if there are good reasons to do so. Way back, over where I live you were required to produce a so-called certificate of “good morals and behaviour” for certain jobs or to hold public office. One could get this document at the local town hall if in essence you had a clean slate and were not an object of ongoing investigation. And in about three days. Failure to produce it when asked for could make you ineligible for the job or subject to more detailed scrutiny. This approach makes much more sense than indiscriminately subjecting everyone to in-depth CRB or other investigations.

What troubles me more, however, is the rather selective outcry of the powers that be to what happens in our society. Paedophiles should be dealt with harshly, let there be no mistake about that. I consider any crime against a child as particularly heinous. One cannot help but ask why it has been going for decades, if not centuries, without authorities adequately intervening until media jumped on the issue. For way too long, abuse victims met with ubiquitous deafness, whether they filed a report with the police or with the church itself.

Lately, we have been confronted with extremely stiff reactions by the US and other governments to Wikileaks and Mr. Assange, now in jail on rather dubious allegations of sex crimes, and without any formal accusations brought against him. Some have accused him of treason without any legal basis for it, and a former US presidential hopeful even calling for his execution. The whole story is pretty reminiscent of the case of John Wilkes, a journalist libertine who in 1771 challenged the law that prohibited the reporting of parliamentary debates and speeches, kept secret because those in power argued that the information was too sensitive and would disrupt the life of the country if made public. See also a most excellent article in The Guardian ( ) on this topic.

Many articles and comments on this blog are on government security measures, real and perceived, in the wake of terrorist threats and attacks since 9/11, another issue they have been taking a firm stand against to the point that quite some legislation and controls put in place have started to erode privacy and other basic civil liberties.

Again, as with child abuse in the church, one cannot help but wondering why an equally vigorous crackdown never happened on those responsible for the financial crisis, and equally invasive regulation and legislation imposed on the banking industry. Whereas arguably the financial crisis has made much more victims than any terrorist act, very few CxO’s, traders or brokers have been brought accusations against or put on trial. Given its impact on so many lives and the socio-economic fabric as a whole, one would expect Guantanamo to be full of them. Instead, banks have been bailed out with unprecedented billions of tax dollars, and many of the likes of Dick Fuld still very much doing the same stuff as before “because of their unique knowledge of the industry”.

Its a very uncomfortable, almost Orwellian feeling that some pigs do indeed seem to be more equal than others. (Those unfamiliar with the expression, read “Animal Farm”.)

Bhima December 13, 2010 3:26 PM

They seem to be missing an important source of records: the Vatican’s records. Any pedophile search missing this information will be seriously deficient.

English bloke December 13, 2010 3:27 PM

This programme is a hangover from our former (socialist) government. Whatever it is said to be for and whatever it actually accomplishes, I have always assumed that it was just a plank of the larger effort to create the situation where every human activity, no matter how trivial, must be explicitly licensed by the government.

These checks were originally intended to be much more pervasive than is needful for child protection, and have in fact been scaled back somewhat since their inception.

Unfortunately, the damage now probably cannot be undone. CRB checking has become a major industry, as a web search will quickly reveal.

Jules December 13, 2010 4:16 PM

@English bloke

The previous (not very socialist) government wanted to extend the requirements for checking to other groups of people who have regular unsupervised access to children on a less formal basis, such as informal childcare arrangements which might not have been otherwise regulated. It was partly an attempt to allow parents to do such checking, but it got blown out of proportion by the press who claimed that it meant that anyone who gave a child a lift to school occasionally should be checked. Again it was a risk-based assessment, which the press don’t understand.

Interestingly, a survey of people employing personal assistants to provide them with intimate personal care found that they wanted people with a “nice character” and were not concerned about training or police checking. There is clearly a conflict between what individuals perceive to be a risk and what regulators and the Government do, given the information that they have on abuse. Having worked in the caring professions for a long time, there is no way I would allow someone to provide personal care without a check – not least, because of the high risk of financial abuse.

Vladimir Jirasek December 13, 2010 4:19 PM

CRB checks only try to solve problems created by bad parenting. Ultimately, parents are responsible for their children and should educate them how to talk and behave with “strangers”. Children should know what is appropriate and what is not. CRB checks are definitely invasion to privacy in alienate law abiding citizens while not really help children against minority of offenders.

BF Skinner December 13, 2010 7:19 PM

@jgreco “There is no such thing as giving up “some” of your freedoms.”

Of course there is. We give up the freedom to some of our money so that the nation can retain a strong military. Our military members give up thier rights to take themselves out of harms way just because they are ordered into combat.

Did you mean rights? Even there we give up the unalienable rights of some of our fellow citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of property; and we do it every day.

KL December 13, 2010 7:42 PM

When enough CRBs are done the state will have live data on a person’s home addresses over 5 years, details of the job they do, the employer will also be given proofs of ID like a passport (visas issued and placed travelled to) and proofs of addresses like bank statements, utility bills and phone bills. I am sure this data will be a good way to base further surveillance upon. Whether the CRB actually blocks an unsuitable person, all that data given over could be used for other purposes…

Oas December 13, 2010 7:43 PM

Why don’t we just tattoo a scarlet A, err… better make it a P… onto the foreheads of those we don’t want working sensitive jobs like this?

Then we don’t waste a lot of time checking out innocent folks.

Russell Coker December 13, 2010 8:40 PM

MarCon: Can you cite a reference for “the biggest risk factor, from what I understand, is having been abused as a child”.

This one keeps coming up without proof, it seems like a way of abusing people who were abused as children.

CGHMartini December 14, 2010 1:12 AM

I’m irritated because of something else.
Not because the control is obviously over applied (compare source newspaper article vs law).
Neither because it’s ineffective. As a foreigner I don’t have reliable data there.
BUT the design of the control had me saying WOW: pending police investigations can be (a) disclosed to the employer (b) WITHOUT this fact being allowed to be disclosed to the applicant UNDER ANY circumstances even when he has the temerity to go to court. What happened to ‘in dubio pro reo’? Or have I misunderstood the sources?

Gweihir December 14, 2010 2:27 AM

This is really stupid. It is well known that most abuse happens by people close to the children, typically by family. I suspect this is basically another bureaucracy inflating its importance to the detriment of everybody.

Bruce T Moose December 14, 2010 2:55 AM

The problem is bigger with regard to CRB checks, I coach sports at my sons football club on a Sunday, I need a CRB, I help out at his school, I need another one, guess what my work involves going to various schools, and I need a CRB for each one……. its madness

Mike December 14, 2010 4:33 AM


@james – two questions:

1) Is CRB necessary in all the cases that it is requested?
2) Is it a reliable check?


1) No. Like health and safety, the law is being interpreted with a very wide scope because people are afraid of getting it wrong. They don’t use common sense as a result, and people are put off volunteering because of the perceived beaureocracy surrounding their entry into the activity. Safeguarding checks are required for good reason, but the fear of litigation spreads it too wide.

2) No. As a school governor I have a CRB check. My first check was made a year after returning to the UK after a two year posting to Massachusetts. In order to meet the 5 years of records, I had to send off to the MA state police for a ‘good boy’ statement. The CRB came back as clean BEFORE the result came back from MA. So they violated their own rules of evidence…not that the rules were any good- there are 48 states in the USA I could travel to without ID, not just MA.

Finally, there’s a problem with scope. Aa CRB check is for a person in a particular role – my CRB states ‘school governor’ for the school where I am a governor. Therefore, it’s an activity I need to repeat every time I participate in other activities – such as presenting privacy issues to other schools, participating in events at the local pre-school, and so on. This just raises costs and time, and puts people off helping, for almost no benefit.

SO the CRB is, IMO, pretty much a waste of time. As a cyber-security professional, a school governor with responsibility for child protection and a parent I don’t think it’s worth diddly-squat. And I’m paid to care….

Svempa December 14, 2010 6:41 AM

Pedophilia is the modern witch-hunt at its most blatant. Here is the group of people the politicians say it’s okay to persecute, some of them even say it’s okay to kill them. All the while, they keep saying pedophile in all instances, even though child molester and pedophile refer to different terms. And best of all: There are no discernable traits, so EVERYONE must be suspected until proven innocent. This has in turn become the favourite weapon of the bureaucrats in instituting laws that destroy privacy and put arbitrary censorship in place, always without judicial oversight. When I was little, there was a similar attitude against homosexuals, they were more or less okay to harass, and whenever they were discussed, “homosexual” was usually taken to mean “rapist”.

If we would like a better security for our children, we should stop demonizing people, give serious aid to those suffering from pedophilia, quit harassing them, and maybe they would dare present their problems. You don’t seek help if you’re likely to get murdered, right? And if we can reach more of them, we can protect our children far more effectively.

SteveJ December 14, 2010 10:04 AM

The article isn’t “against stupid CRB checks”, though.

The article is against all child-protection measures of any kind. I’m not a member of the CofE, or of any church, but to me a few things jump out of the article as being just as daft as the cases of possible excess that the journalist has managed to round up:

“We don’t need all these rules — they should use their common sense as I use mine.” (in other words: I know I’m not a paedophile, so they should take my word for it and not police me)

“Every Church of England and Catholic diocese has at least one full-time safeguarding officer” (this is presented as a bad thing! Wait until they find out that every swimming pool has a lifeguard!)

“This structure does little to stop incidents of child abuse” (source?)

“Very few of these rules come from central government or the law.” (because heaven forfend that an organization as large and as integrated into society as the church should ever take child protection measures not mandated by law)

“There is now a ‘safeguarding procedure’ for everything from ‘safe photography’ at nativity plays, to ‘appropriate touch’ for bell ringing, to rules on transporting children to and from church events.” (what, it would be more sensible to put in policies that protect children from sexual abuse except while they’re being transported to and from events?)

No doubt there are mistakes made applying child protections measures – it does on the face of it seem pointless to CRB-vet anyone who might have passing unsupervised contact with children. Perhaps more sensible would be to supervise the children differently, so as to actually prevent the flower guild abusing them, rather than merely to check that the flower guild members have never been caught abusing children before.

But the article is BS. “Use common sense” means “do nothing”. If the church does nothing, as demanded by the Spectator, we all know exactly what article the Spectator (and every other newspaper and magazine in the country) will write the next time a child is abused by anyone connected with the church.

NobodySpecial December 14, 2010 10:46 AM

@SteveJ – remember the safeguarding officer isn’t there to safeguard the children but to safeguard the organisation.

It would be like every swimming pool having somebody in charge of ensuring that their safety compliance plan was correctly filed and that the notice poolside saying that no lifeguard was in the correct position.

john December 14, 2010 11:01 AM

I was going to put up a joke about this but if I make a joke about anything it could be used to imply me in bad things. Hence I couldn’t make this joke.

jay December 14, 2010 11:28 AM

SteveJ –“If the church does nothing, as demanded by the Spectator, we all know exactly what article the Spectator (and every other newspaper and magazine in the country) will write the next time a child is abused by anyone connected with the church.”

so essentially it IS CYA. Just in case the worst happens, they have a way to deflect the blame.

Adam December 14, 2010 11:59 AM

‘and without checks there would be “paedophiles infiltrating the flower guild.”‘

Without wishing to defend the church or the CRB, I notice it’s the journalist who said “would” and not the Dean.

SteveJ December 14, 2010 12:04 PM


“remember the safeguarding officer isn’t there to safeguard the children but to safeguard the organisation”

That’s not true, and I doubt that you have any reason to believe that it’s true (other than perhaps if you’re fool enough to repeat the unsupported claims of the Spectator). The safeguarding officer does have some role to ensure that the church isn’t negligent in cases of child abuse, and a much greater role to protect children in the care of the church.

A quick summary of the job description would no doubt confirm what the role is for, and the Spectator could have printed one if it had any interest whatsoever in either the truth or in child protection. If the church were only interested in CYA, they would of course predominantly hire lawyers for the job (or perhaps PR folks). The author prefers to make a few insinuations based on a novel by George Orwell that one or more people at the Spectator may or may not have actually read (and whose politics they almost certainly don’t agree with if they did, given the Spectator’s main editorial stance and Orwell’s commitment to socialism).

@jay: my statement highlights that the Spectator’s position is incoherent. I doubt very much that the the church is acting as it does because of the Spectator’s incoherent position, since this article was only just published, whereas the behaviour it criticises has been going on for some time.

Looking at it another way, there is no course that the church could possibly follow that wouldn’t lead to media hysteria that whatever they’re doing, it’s certainly completely wrong. If they don’t protect children sufficiently then they’re scum. If they do anything to protect children then they’re oppressing adults. If they act to protect children more then it’s CYA against the first group. If they relax any restriction in the least, then it’s pandering to the second group.

Now, this could describe a normal debate, except that the first and second groups are frequently the same people – it’s the moronic media position that that any “authority” is responsible for everything but must do nothing. Granted, the Mail is more specifically culpable here than the Spectator, but the latter isn’t helping.

If the Spectator article had pointed to a single instance of what it considered good child protection, either within the CofE or elsewhere, then perhaps it might have been able to contribute to a debate on what child protection policies should look like. It’s much easier to mock the church for trying.

Since this article in particular takes no interest in how children might be protected, whereas the CofE does, I really think it would be best not to buy into the article’s hysterical “political correctness gone mad” nonsense.

By all means question the use of CRB checks as described in the first couple of pages. That’s is hardly a scoop by the Spectator, nor is it news to me that CRB checks don’t work very well considering their cost (in cash and general obstruction). The rest is someone’s sense of sheer bloody-minded entitlement gone a bit haywire. I’m surprised that so many people in the comments here buy that part, given that Bruce’s approach to security and liberty is so explicitly evidence-based.

Michael December 15, 2010 9:38 AM


It looks like you have been completely sold on the CRB concept. Clearly after completing a CRB check, it just isn’t possible for someone to then become a criminal. Do CRB checks really have any correlation at all to child abuse? You’re going to lose a lot more decent potential volunteers who can’t be bothered with the hassle than you will root out paedophiles!

As someone above mentioned this is all about the organisation covering its arse and as a consequence reducing personal responsibility of those involved.

Maybe it would have an impact if CRB checks were done sparingly but when at the height of the madness it was suggested that 3 million or more Britons would be subject to CRB checks it has just become absurd. All sense has gone out the window!

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.