UK: Computer errors give thousands criminal recordsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
ISSUE 2032 Sunday 17 December 2000
Computer errors give thousands criminal records By David Bamber, Home Affairs Correspondent
THOUSANDS of innocent people will be wrongly branded as criminals when police records are released to the public for the first time next year because of "significant inaccuracies" in force files. Elizabeth France, the Data Protection Registrar, has warned Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, that a large number of new certificates to be issued by the Criminal Records Bureau could contain false information.
The certificates will be issued from next June, when individuals will be able to buy copies of their own criminal records at a cost of about £10. Employers in sensitive areas such as childcare and teaching can demand to see the certificates before taking on an applicant.
Mrs France, however, believes that mistakes on the police national computer and difficulties over in-putting data could lead to many people being wrongly branded as criminals and others having their records mistakenly erased.
More than 15 per cent of criminal records could contain significant errors, say officials. An internal Scotland Yard survey of the Metropolitan Police in London last year showed some 86 per cent of records were wrong in some way - although this included minor errors.
Phil Jones, Assistant Data Protection Registrar, said: "Mrs France has written to the Home Office expressing serious concerns that information held by the new Criminal Records Bureau will contain inaccurate information.
"Reports have suggested that a large percentage may not be completely accurate, although much of the false information could be minor, such as a comma in the wrong place. It could have serious consequences, though, if someone is wrongly given a criminal record or, perhaps even worse, if someone with a criminal record is shown not to have one."
The House of Commons home affairs select committee is so concerned about wrong information on the police national computer that it has arranged a special hearing in February to take evidence about inaccuracies, as well as other problems with the bureau.
A report in London last year showed that 86 per cent of entries on the police national computer in 15 police areas in the capital were wrong in some way. In Vauxhall every file called up was found to contain at least one error. Legal experts said at the time that people could sue the police for damages if their records wrongly branded them as criminals.
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