The reforms will ensure that the existence of 'soft intelligence', such as accusations of rape or child abuse, will be flagged up on the police national computer along with convictions and cautions. New applicants for jobs working unsupervised with children could also be expected to give a fingerprint sample to be checked against the national fingerprint database.
The controversial move will lead to a sharp reduction in police control over records, which will pass to the Criminal Records Bureau, set up to vet backgrounds of people applying for new jobs.
A report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary circulated to police forces in 2000 listed a high number of failings, including patchy training on the use of the police national computer and badly stored data. The report came three years before a breakdown in intelligence-gathering allowed Ian Huntley, the school caretaker convicted of killing Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman last week, to secure a job at the village college, adjacent to the primary school the girls attended, despite a series of serious sexual allegations against him.
Cambridgeshire Police have revealed their frustration with their Humberside Police colleagues who originally told them Huntley's record was 'clean'. It was later discovered that Humberside Police, which covered the area where Huntley lived before moving to Cambridgeshire, were aware of a number of allegations of under-age sex and rape against him.
The latest Criminal Justice Act gives home secretary David Blunkett new powers to decide what information is contained in the highest level 'enhanced' checks for the most sensitive jobs.
Ministers have realised that the current syst em of checks would not have prevented Huntley from getting the job in Soham because it relied too heavily on the discretion of individual police forces about the level of 'soft' information to disclose. Humberside Police failed to pass on allegations against Huntley in Grimsby when he applied for a job in Cambridgeshire. Under the new system, the information that such allegations existed would be held centrally.
However, civil liberties organisations are concerned there could be serious implications for personal privacy if staff at the Criminal Records Bureau, which is run by the private company Capita, are given access to such information.
A spokesman for Liberty said: 'We have no problem with allegations being passed to a third party where child protection is an issue. But we must recognise that there are also thousands of unfounded allegations. Given the record of Capita, there are serious concerns about the ability of private companies to manage this information'.