Criminal Records Bureau

Criminal Records Bureau
Logo of the Criminal Records Bureau.

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), is an Executive Agency of the Home Office, which provides wider access to criminal record information through its Disclosure service for England and Wales. The equivalent agency in Scotland is Disclosure Scotland and in Northern Ireland is Access Northern Ireland.

The CRB service enables organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors to make safer recruitment decisions by identifying candidates who may be unsuitable for certain work, especially that involve children or vulnerable adults. In 2007, the CRB processed 3.4 million checks.[1]

The CRB had been due to partner with the Independent Safeguarding Authority in administering the newly created Vetting and Barring Scheme from 2009. This was suspended in 2010 pending a review following the 2010 General Election. This review was published in February 2011, making recommendations for the merger of the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority into one new non-departmental public body, responsible for barring individuals and completing criminal record checks. Under the Protection of Freedoms Bill, the new scheme will not require registration, nor will any details be retained on a database.[2] The scheme would have required all adults who teach, train, supervise or care for children or vulnerable adults on a frequent or intensive basis to register, with criminal offences for non-compliance. This was estimated to comprise approximately 11.3 million people (a quarter of the adult population).[1]



The CRB was established under Part V of the Police Act 1998 and was launched in March 2002, following public concern about the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults. It was found that the British police forces did not have adequate capability or resources to routinely process and fulfil the large number of criminal record checks requested in a timely fashion, so a dedicated agency was set up to administer this function.[1]

One of the main reasons for the formation of the Criminal Records Bureau was to reduce the risk of organisations being sued for employing convicted criminals who went on to abuse vulnerable people while in the course of their duty, as the 1990s saw an increase in the American-influenced compensation culture across Britain.[citation needed]

An organisation which is entitled to ask exempted questions (under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974) must register with the CRB before they can request Disclosure data about an applicant. The individual applies to the CRB with their application countersigned by the organisation. The applicant's criminal record is then accessed from the Police National Computer (PNC), as well as checked, if appropriate, against lists of people considered unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable people maintained by the Independent Safeguarding Authority and others; these include the ISA Children's list, the ISA Adults' list and List 99. Copies of completed disclosures are sent to the applicant and the countersignatory organisation.

Employers and temporary staff agencies have bemoaned the time it takes for a worker to be cleared by the CRB and in an effort to cut waiting times the government allowed the establishment of "ISA Adult First". Registered bodies may check whether an applicant appears on the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) list through this online checking system, which takes around two working days to turn around. If the check is clean the body may provisionally employ the applicant, subject to an increased level in supervision, until the return by post of the full disclosure.

Disclosure process

The process by which the CRB provides criminal record data is called "Disclosure". There are two levels of Disclosure: Standard and Enhanced. These checks cannot be obtained by members of the public directly but are only available to organisations and only for those professions, offices, employments, work and occupations listed in the Exceptions Order to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

A third form of disclosure, the "Basic Disclosure", is not currently available, but is intended for individuals to obtain copies of their own criminal record, though members of the public can currently do this by requesting 'subject access' under the Data Protection Act from any British police force, regardless of where the subject lives.

Standard disclosure

The standard disclosure is primarily for positions involving regular contact with children or vulnerable adults, but can also be used for some other professions of high responsibility (for example, accountancy). Standard Disclosures reveal details of any convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings the applicant has received, regardless of length of time since the incidents; together with details of whether that person is banned from working with children or vulnerable adults (if these details have been requested). The CRB aims to issue Standard Disclosures within 10 days of receipt of the application.

As of 12 October 2009, the Standard Disclosure is checked only against the PNC. This is due to the rollout of the ISA Adults and ISA Children's lists, against which the Standard Disclosure cannot be checked. Any Standard Disclosure applications being sent to CRB from the 12th October onwards with the relevant boxes on the application form selected are rejected by the CRB mailroom. The price of the Standard Disclosure was lowered from £31 to £26 to reflect these changes.[3]

Enhanced disclosure

Enhanced disclosure is for positions involving greater contact with children or vulnerable adults (for example: teachers, nurses, midwives, doctors, dentists, social workers, student nurses, student midwives, medical students, dental students, pharmacists, pharmacy students) and for certain additional professions (for example, judicial appointments). In general, the type of work will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of children or vulnerable people. Examples include working as a teacher, or Scout or Guide leader. Enhanced checks are also issued for certain statutory purposes such as gaming and lottery licences.

In addition to the information provided on a Standard Disclosure, the Enhanced Disclosure involves an additional check with the police, who check if any other information is held on file that may be relevant (for instance, investigations that have not led to a criminal record). The police decide what (if any) additional information will be added to the Disclosure. In rare circumstances the police may write to the employer separately giving confidential information about an ongoing criminal investigation into the applicant. This information may not be released to the applicant and the employer cannot reveal it to them.

The CRB aims to issue Enhanced Disclosure within 28 days of receiving the application, however the involvement of local police forces can affect the time taken to process an Enhanced Disclosure application.


The procedures of the CRB were tightened following the Soham murders trial. Ian Huntley, a former caretaker, was found guilty of murdering two girls of a Cambridgeshire secondary school in 2002. Huntley had been suspected of a string of offences including rape, indecent assault and burglary. His only conviction before the murders was for riding an uninsured and unlicensed motorcycle, but a burglary charge had remained on file. In January 2006, following controversies resulting from cases where staff had been hired by schools before a full CRB check had been carried out, the Department for Education and Skills stated: "Employers should obtain a CRB Enhanced Disclosure in respect of all teachers they recruit before the person is placed in a school." Huntley had been hired in November 2001, before the CRB came into force.[4][5][6]

Sociologist Frank Furedi has stated that CRB checks cannot provide a "cast-iron guarantee that children will be safe with a particular adult", and that their use has created an atmosphere of suspicion and is "poisoning" relationships between the generations, with many ordinary parents finding themselves regarded as "potential child abusers".[1] The restrictions imposed by the CRB check process have contributed to a shortage of adult volunteers in organizations such as Girlguiding UK.[1]

  • In February 2004, the National Audit Office criticised the CRB for "huge" delays.[7]
  • In May 2006, the Home Office revealed that about 2,700 people were mislabelled as criminals during checks.[8]

In 2009, the CRB's Enhanced Disclosure was criticised for including details of any minor contact an individual has had with the police, even where no formal action was taken against them.[9]


External links

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