back to article CRB database wrongly labels thousands as criminals

More than 12,000 people have been wrongly branded criminals due to mistakes on their criminal records, the government has revealed. A Parliamentary answer reveals that 12,225 people have disputed the results of a criminal record check and had their complaint upheld in the last five years. The number of complaints upheld has …


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  1. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    "wrongly branded criminals due to mistakes on their criminal records" .

    Surely if you have criminal record, you have committed a crime, no? Is this yet another wonderful cock-up in naming?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How exactly do these mistakes happen? People just attach data to the wrong name or something?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Good stuff.

    That is an error rate of 0.085%, which is staggeringly good. AND the records were corrected after investigation. Why no word on the 2,146 chancers who objected but were proven wrong?

    This is incredibly good news. It shows the the checks and procedures currently in place work very well indeed. The ID system (based around similar ideas) will provide this level of security to the whole nation. And the level of accuracy further proves that only those trying to hide something are fearful of it.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Bad stuff.

    > That is an error rate of 0.085%, which is staggeringly good.

    No it isn't.

    >This is incredibly good news.

    No it isn't.

    >The ID system (based around similar ideas) will provide this level of security to the whole nation.

    No it won't.

    >only those trying to hide something are fearful of it.

    Aha! There you moved from vaguely fact-based assertion to cliché shill territory. Fail.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Good stuff

    "And the level of accuracy further proves that only those trying to hide something are fearful of it."

    This from an Anonymous Coward. Says it all really.

    And before you ask I'm allowed to post AC, I'll not be getting an ID card.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    @Good stuff

    The way I read it, there were 12,225 complaints upheld over a 5-year period in which there were 3.3 million disclosures. That gives a false positive rate - a *detected* false positive rate - of 0.37%, which is less good - it means that *at least* one in 270 enquiries recorded a wrongful accusation . We cannot know how many disclosures resulted in a false positive about which no complaint was made.

  7. Martin Silver badge

    >good stuff

    What about all the ones that were turned down for a job but were never told it was because of a CRB and so never got the record changed.

    This is only the rate of false positives that knew about it, and knew how/cared enough to get it fixed.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If there are ~2800 complaints about errors that are upheld (ie people incorrectly being branded as criminal), does that not leave the possibility that there are ~2800 (using the same error rate) that are incorrectly labelled as safe, but aren't picked up because people don't complain?

    As mentioned by AC above, it's a very low proportion of people actually applying for a CRB check, but 0.085% of the population gives around 50,000 people with incorrect criminal records - sounds quite a lot, really (though really that's a lot less if you discount people below the age of criminal consent, who, until Jacqui Smith realises her mistake, don't have criminal records).

    My point is, statistics really can be moulded to back up whichever side of an argument you're backing.


    ps. I'm not backing the hysterical "there's a crim in ever hedge/schoolyard/supermarket trolley" viewpoint, it's just they're the two obvious outrageous dailymail-like ways of looking at things that grab attentions.

  9. Ash

    @Good stuff.

    You're either the best troll i've ever seen, or the worst hidden shill.

    Either way, your summation of the data given is flawed beyond reasoning; You have taken quantitative data and transformed it into a qualitative statement, with no correlation between the two. The accuracy of a database does not mean that people won't be cautious about its use, and who has access.

    Even reliable data in the wrong hands can be dangerous. Recent Gov. data loses and outright idiocy in the public eye (red box on train?) are testament to that.

  10. Mycho Silver badge

    @Good stuff

    "Why no word on the 2,146 chancers who objected but were proven wrong?"

    They weren't proven wrong, their disputes were rejected.

  11. John Murgatroyd

    Ok ?

    That would not include those wrongly identified as potential abusers in an advanced crb check, since they would not have access to the information given about them. Additional information, cleared by a chief constable before sending, is not disclosed to the applicant. It is a criminal offence to disclose enhanced-level check information to the applicant. Which must be useful, even if only so that it avoids litigation if the info is wrong.

    Oh, and there are so many offences that are "criminal" now, that I should think about half the country must be on the pnc (speeding for instance)

    I await, with interest, the next step in the Grand Scheme To Eliminate Child Abuse, which will be parents having to be crb cleared before they are allowed to look after their children. Starts in 2011.

  12. Danny
    Black Helicopters

    RE: good stuff

    I was going to pull you down on your figures and the naivety that leads you to believe ID cards are a good thing, but it would be a waste of time as you obviously don't have an IQ high enough to understand the ramifications.

    Either that or you are a home office shill. On second thought it's probably the low IQ that got you a job at the home office.

    Sorry for the use of some words with more than two syllables, I know it's hard on you.

  13. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    The AC who has nothing to hide

    "The ID system (based around similar ideas) will provide this level of security to the whole nation. And the level of accuracy further proves that only those trying to hide something are fearful of it."

    Security to the whole nation? Security from what?

    The only danger to this country emanates from those like you and Jacqui.

    You and the likes of you must be all deported to North Korea. You will live much happier in a country like that.

  14. Britt Johnston

    @ good stuff, from a database

    I agree that 99.9% is a good figure.

    The level of complaints corrected is of the same order as those which were refused. That could mean that crooks want relief, but could equally mean that the rules to prove innocence are tricky - conclusion open.

    The last case is the % of uncontested wrong data, which is not mentioned. It could be estimated by following up on a sample of data. If this had a larger error rate than all contested data, that would not be such good news in the context of broader new usage.

    Keep testing for usage (applies to all databases).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But you dont have to be guilty to fail a check

    Unfortunately the police can also advise if you have been accused of a crime, even if you were never found guilty, which wont be reflected in the figures....

  16. Erudite Luddite

    A "good" error rate??

    "That is an error rate of 0.085%, which is staggeringly good"

    Um... Unless you happen to be one of the thousands affected? Statistics have no interest in the individual. I trust you never have to right a wrong on your credit and/or criminal record.

    If (for the sake of argument using a random and made up number) DNA fingerprinting provides "accuracy" (actually a probablility of uniqueness) to a level of 1 in 30 million... then, to me, that means there's someone else in the UK who can be fingered for that crime (or vice versa).

    "Where were YOU on the night of the fifth...?"

  17. David Pollard

    The ones that got away

    "The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has issued over 16 million disclosures since inception" (answer to Angela Watkinson) so the correction of 12,000 records suggests an error rate of around 1 per 1,000. Presumably the actual error rate is somewhat higher: disclosures have been provided for only one in four of the population, and not everyone will have noticed or taken the trouble to correct errors.

    It would be interesting to see an estimate of how many people aren't recorded who the system is presumed to label.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Good Job

    Retard, out of 3.3million checks 3000 checks that raised a positive flag were succesfully appealed, this doesn't include those who just didn't bother to appeal coming to the conclusion that the great machine couldn't be argued with, and the number of false negatives (I would suggest that someone with a criminal record who is shown as not having a criminal record wouldn't like feel the need to point out the mistake.)

    So there are probably as many (if not more) false negatives now working with vulnerable people who have now proved they are safe to work with vulnerable people which shall lead to them being under supervised and enable them to act how they please.

    Your idiocy is stupendous and a shining example of a nation obsessed with one off checks.

  19. Pierre Silver badge

    What about the ones who did not object?

    Given that one doesn't have access to one's own checks, what about all the people who were wrongly tagged as criminals but:

    -were not 100 % sure about what goes in the checks (who never broke any law or bylaw, ever?)

    -didn't want the job after all

    -complained, but due to a second error had their complaint dismissed.

    A system like this is almost acceptable if proven 100% accurate. Any error can ruin one's life. Like, forever. Finish. Kaput. Any demonstrable inaccuracy should have the whole thing scraped. Period.

    Guilty unless you complain and spend a lot of time trying to prove your innocence. Without knowing what you are accused of. Kafka anyone?

  20. Joel Mansford


    I would like to know how many people were wrongly on the list - ie. they have absolutely no criminal record.

  21. alain williams Silver badge

    @ Good stuff

    "0.085%", I make it 0.31% which is 3.6 times your number. If we assume that complaints were about new records added to the database, in 2007-2008 there were 900,000 records added of which 2,785 were in error.

    Why do you post as AC - perhaps you work for a govt spin agency ?

  22. Roy Stilling

    @Anonymous Coward @ 13:11

    You are Jacqui Smith AICM5P

  23. Anonymous Coward

    @AC - what a c**t you are ...

    Would you be so understanding if three weeks into a new job you had a truncheon (my new collective noun) for security guards pick you up under the arms and physically eject you from the building because your CRB check came back wrong ?

    Of course, you can clear yourself, but you won't get your job back. And you won't get a new job, as any future employer will get to know that you failed a CRB check ...

    This lunacy will finally end, when having criminalised 50% of the population, the state will start to use the logic that the other 50% MUST be guilty of something, as they've not yet been found guilty of something.

    I recently had a bizarre Alice-in-Wonderland conversation with a VERY senior copper who told me with a straight face that people who had no criminal record were "worth keeping an eye on, as they're probably up to something."

  24. Anonymous Coward


    "And the level of accuracy further proves that only those trying to hide something are fearful of it."

    Says the AC!

  25. James Pickett

    No surprise

    And how many criminals have been wrongly let through? (As would happen if you put Blair's name in.)

    This used to be run by Crapita. Presumably it still is...

  26. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    I have nothing to hide, so have nothing to fear.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising really

    This is exactly why "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" is such naive bo***cks...

  28. Mad Dave
    Thumb Down

    An error rate of 0% would be good

    How exactly does one get onto this if one is not a criminal?

    Does some member of staff decide that you look a bit 'criminalish' or something?

  29. RichardB

    Proven wrong?

    "Why no word on the 2,146 chancers who objected but were proven wrong?"

    OR were they merely not proved right - or even ignored?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting but a bit sensationalist?

    The error rate (false +ve) is on the decline, or so it would seem, so that is a nice Plus? I'd be exceptionally worried if, after so long in operation, it wasn't. What is its decline due to?

    1 in a 1000 is quite low (better than Heathrow baggage?) - unless you happen to be that one person. What we don't know, and perhaps can't know, is the rate of false negatives. (people who have criminal records but are flagged)

    The scope for error is fantastically high when the system is expanded to the population as a whole. Simplistically and sensationally a 1in 1000 error rate extended to a population of 60 million means 60,000 false claims of criminality, per year (if all 60 million were checked and contested in the year, that is)

    Now, remind me again, when is it intended that the NID database be rolled out and over what period? What data will it contain and what are the provisions for an individual to contest and have corrected the data stored upon it? I, for one might want to have an annual report on what it contains about me just to make sure nothing has accidentally altered in the year. It shouldn't but, .... Then again I have nothing to fear if I have nothing to hide...

    Tell that to the annual small market town full of error that could be appealed each year.

  31. RichyS
    Paris Hilton

    @Good Stuff AC Above

    So, that's only 51 000 mistakes they'll make with the ID card database then. In other words, a medium sized town.

    Not that great the really, is it?

    Still, if a whole town has got nothing to hide...

    Paris, 'cos she hides nothing. Nothing.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re all Re Good stuff

    When I read good stuff, I read it as sarcarstic, and as such I assumed the post was taking the piss, and going for a flame. If this was the case he succeeded :)

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @John Murgatroyd

    I await, with interest, the next step in the Grand Scheme To Eliminate Child Abuse, which will be parents having to be crb cleared before they are allowed to look after their children.

    Well, no, actually. You will have to be genetically tested, ID'ed, and CRB'ed before you are allowed to breed and become a parent (chavs excluded, of course; since by definition they are all law-breakers and good-for-nothings anyway) This should put an end to all you hetero pervs who think you're going to re-populate the world with your normal sprog whilst you hold down a job and make home payments and all.

  34. Anonymous Coward


    Dear god! I may be an ugly troll, but you take that back!

    (Ok El Reg, I'll stop)

  35. adnim Silver badge

    @AC:Good stuff

    0 errors is the only acceptable figure for a database system that can have such a devastating effect on a persons ability to find employment. A database that has the possibility to fundamentally effect the rest of a persons life.

    In addition I do have something to hide.

    My private life and those personal activities I wish to hide from control crazed paranoiacs who might see my natural curiosity and security research as a terrorist act, my objection to their policies and laws as subversion/treason and potential physical threat, and my thoughts and fantasies as a crime.

    Of course I have something to hide, remember the word privacy? Unless I actually do something that directly or adversely affects others it's nobodies fucking business what I do.

    The terms leader, government, policy and law are not synonymous with the terms honest, righteous, fair and good. If they were, then I would tend to agree with you, I would have nothing to hide.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    To all who think that failures in checks are ok..

    F**K You.

    I have to be CRB'd, and may have to have that extended to eCRB. Should I fail, not only will I get kicked out of the Charity Organisation I work with, I will probably get kicked out of my job. It will also in all probabilty shaft my clearances making it somewhat tricky to continue in my chosen profession.

    Now, if they make an "entirely acceptable" (in your opinion) error who the f**k is going to put my life back together? I have nothing to hide and I have everything to fear, from the rank ineptitude of Govt and their minions, to the willing acceptence of shills/trolls/pricks like yourselves.

    You going to repair my life? The Govt? No. You just take the attitude that there is such a thing as "acceptable casualties". Unless you plan to do something about these failures to compensate or remove the errors utterly, butt the hell out and let the adults discuss the extremely serious consequences of being branded a "criminal" in this country. This is over 2000 utterly blamless people who've had their lives f**ked with and you think it's fine????

    AC because I can, it's my last refuge of being allowed to be anonymous.

    "I love my Country, I fear my Govt".

  37. Columbus

    failure to disclose anything

    A more interesting aspect to this one is the number of CRB checks which are not issued because the Police fail/refuse to respond to the CRB request for data. I know of a couple of cases where the police have held on to the requests for years. There is no requirement for the police to respond, all they have to say is we are investigating ... (translation- we have lost it, have no staff, don't like you, can't be bothered)

    Whers the Big brother icon? I suggest the baby face mask from Terry Gilliams Brazil

    If State organisations can prevent you from working, what is next?

  38. RW

    Re Good Stuff (13:11) & @ AC 13:45

    Smells to me like "Good Stuff" is a troll who doesn't deserve the dignity of a reply. If not, then the Home Office is goofier and stupider than previously thought, given the transparently shillistic nature of his posting.

    13:45 : "This lunacy will finally end, when having criminalised 50% of the population, the state will start to use the logic that the other 50% MUST be guilty of something, as they've not yet been found guilty of something."

    Isn't it said that given the number of laws in force, we're all guilty of breaking one or another of them? But just think of the savings that will result when this old saying is exploited to merge the CRB database with the National ID one! I imagine that dimwit totalitarian Jacqui will then circulate to all denizens of Britain a questionnaire asking you to list the crimes of which you are guilty. Cripey: that sounds just like Scientology! And failure to fill the form out will be itself a crime, and failure to fill it out 100% accurately will be one too. <mode=sarcasm>After all, this is a government database and no errors or omissions can be tolerated.</mode>

    Perhaps it really is time to start alleging various misbehaviors on the part of those in government. "I saw Jacqui Smith commit a terrorist act: she dropped a candy wrapper on the pavement!" "Gordon Brown is a nasty criminal: he farted in public!" "Ooooh, that evil Harriet Harman: she bits the heads off chickens in a manner that is not pain-free."

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone? Anyone?

    Anyone Surprised? Anyone? Anyone....?..... Beuller?....... Beuller?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I am [more than] slightly worried by how easy it will be to malign someone, with regard to the crb check.

    Since the ecrb includes innuendo and rumour, it seems that all that has to be done to ruin a life is a quick 'phone call, anonymously.

    Who still remembers the teacher who was suspended following a conviction for not having a fishing licence ?

  41. Schultz

    kind of fair

    some criminals get away ...

    some innocentes get caught...

    gotta keep it balanced man,

    lets go back to don't know, don't worry -- felt better that way!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In the USA the employee pays for the CRB. Joe public has the right to see his police record., in fact is public record .

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    All the naughty people...

    ...should be publicly made to sit in some stocks and be pelted with tomatoes!

  44. Tony Paulazzo


    That's what we need, the ability to see any and all information held about us, freely. We should be able to go into any government office and have everything printed out, without them asking as for money. It's our information, about us, that belongs to us. If the government wants to keep info on us, they should bear the cost of giving us access.

    That would allow us, the people, to query anything in it which can then be checked and cleared, creating a, gasp, 100% error free database, or as close as can be hoped for.

    Double plus good.

  45. steogede

    They omit more than they reveal

    The statistics aren't anywhere near complete enough. For exampe, an increase in false positives 2,785 out of 2.4 million to 2,797 out of 3.3 million actually sounds like a decrease in the error rate - but how many of those checks were completely new and how many were repeats (given that you need a new check whenever you change job).

    Likewise 0.1% error rate seems quite low, but if it remains the same every time you apply and you work as a contractor in a field which requires CRB (or just change your job often) then it is much more worrying i.e. change your job 10 times and (statistically) 0.1% becomes 1%.

    It would be nice to know the nature of the errors - e.g. how many were a case of mistaken identity, how many 'expired' records which were revealed when they shouldn't have been?

    It would also be nice to know what the effect of the decision was on the individuals involved and how were they compensated for the CRB's mistakes?

  46. steogede

    One good thing

    The one good thing about the CRB is that the subject receives the disclosure and if there are any mistakes they can dispute the disclosure before showing it to a prospective employer.

  47. John Murgatroyd

    No, wrong !

    No, the ENHANCED crb check features NON-discloseable information. It is a CRIMINAL offence to reveal enhanced-check information to the applicant.

    The applicant will NEVER be told, or see, the enhanced information.

    "Additional Information

    Enhanced checks may contain ‘additional’ information. Occasionally the Chief Police Officer may, if thought necessary in the interests of the prevention or detection of crime, release ‘additional’ information to the Countersignatory only, in the form of a separate letter and should not be revealed to the applicant.

    Approved Information

    Enhanced checks may contain ‘approved’ information. This is non-conviction information provided by the police from their local records. The Chief Police Officer in each force will decide what, if any, information to provide. The CRB will print this information on both the applicant’s and the Countersignatory’s copy"

    Note the difference between "approved" and "additional"

  48. Anonymous Coward


    Having 'accepted' a police caution following their explanation it wasn't a conviction just a warning, I now find it is NOW 'considered' to be equivalent to conviction in a court of law...No going back 20 years and demanding 12 try me so I can prove I was innocent (which I was otherwise they'd have put me before a court). I now have to consider my every move and if CRB checking is involved, though innocent, I'm guilty, so I don't bother applying anymore.

    first they came for the....

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bull shit

    If the cops have record on you that other non law enforce can see, then you should be able to see it to. There is no reason that person should not see their full criminal background.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    1984 all over again

    It's not just CRB checking that can result in erroneous information about you being revealed. Cerain large organisations employ the services of "private detectives", aka former police officers, who then use contacts still within the force to illegally try to find information about you on the Police National Computer, i.e. your personal information is for sale to the highest bidder with no opportunity for you to correct it if it's wrong. I believe this has happened to me and am in the process of trying to prove it. Not easy.

    Be afraid, be very afraid.


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