Scottish home affairs minister Henry McLeish said that extended access to criminal record checks for employment vetting, as legislated for under Part V of the Police Act 1997, would be provided in Scotland by the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO).
This will, for the first time, allow employers to ask prospective employees or volunteers to apply for a criminal record check. At present, criminal record checks in Scotland are carried out by SCRO but are limited in the main to those in the statutory sector whose work brings them into regular contact with children.
In response to a parliamentary question, Mr McLeish revealed that the scheme would be self-financing.
'In order to implement Part V of the Police Act 1997 in England and Wales the Home Office will set up a Criminal Records Bureau. In Scotland the work of disclosing criminal record information will be carried out by the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO), which is already well established as a central vetting authority.
'The government's main objective in introducing these arrangements is to strengthen the safeguards for the protection of children. In line with this and to ensure a smooth transition from the current arrangements for employment vetting checks, the SCRO will phase in the issue of three new types of certificates provided for under the Act.
'Top priority will be given to the issue of certificates for those seeking positions that will involve regular unsupervised access to children.
'The scheme is to be self-financing with applicants being charged a fee which is currently estimated as being between£5 and£10 depending on the level of certificate applied for. We estimate that it will take some two years to equip the SCRO for the new much expanded system of checks. In this time we intend to consult widely in order to ensure that the system will meet the needs of the community it serves.'
In England and Wales, the Criminal Records Bureau is being created under the management of the UK Passport Agency.
There are three different levels of criminal record check and related certificates under the Act. They are:
- A criminal conviction certificate - This will be issued only to individuals who will be able to choose whether to show it to employers. The certificate will show all convictions held at national level which are not `spent' under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 but will not show `spent' convictions or cautions;
- A criminal record certificate - This will be available to people working in areas exempted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It would be available to people who have regular contact with children, the elderly, sick or handicapped people, those involved in the administration of the law (eg police officers); and others employed in other sensitive areas and professions. The certificatewill include details of convictions, including those `spent' under the rehabilitation of Offenders Act;
- An enhanced criminal record certificate - This will be available for those applying for positions which involve regular caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of children, for certain statutory licensing purposes (eg gaming and lottery licences) and for those being considered for judicial appointments. Like the criminal record certificate, this certificate will contain information on `spent' and `unspent' convictions and cautions held at national level but, in addition, will include information from local police records including relevant non-conviction information. It is intended to extend these arrangements to those caring for vulnerable adults.
The three certificates will be phased in to ensure a smooth transition from the current arrangements, with top priority being given to the issue of certificates for those seeking positions which involve regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of children.
Any employer will be able to ask a job applicant to produce a criminal conviction certificate. It would be up to the applicant whether to provide it. In order for an employer to ask for a more detailed check and receive a criminal record certificate or enhanced criminal record certificate it would need to be registered with the SCRO and have the consent of the job applicant.
Applicants will be charged between five and ten pounds depending on the type of certificate required. It will be a matter for individual employers whether the applicant is reimbursed.
The protection of children which will be afforded by the implementation of Part V goes hand in hand with the secretary of state's commitment, announced on November 5, as part of the government's response to the Kent Report on Children's Safeguard Review, to consult on a statutory Consultancy Index in Scotland.