Eamonn Butler writes in the Daily Telegraph, reflecting on why government bureaucracies seem obsessed with hoarding every last snippet of information about every individual:
Watford Borough Council’s decision to ban parents from the playground in case they are paedophiles are another case of the Bully State gone mad. We’ve seen it in the past week with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (whose .gov web address shows it to be anything but independent), telling piano teachers and others that they ought to get CRB checks, or parents might ask why not.
So now we are living in a Britain where all adults are presumed to be paedophiles unless they can prove themselves otherwise. It’s the precautionary principle gone mad. If you can’t prove something safe, you have to treat it as dangerous. That thinking also gave us the EU’s Reach directive, which prescribed in-depth tests on “hazardous chemicals” – such as salt – before they could be licensed for our use.
Why do bureaucrats act like this? Because there is no upside for them. A business person will take a risk because the chance of failure is balanced by the chance of making a fortune. Civil servants aren’t rewarded with fortunes when their decisions go right, but they are sidelined or barred from promotion when they go wrong. So they focus on stopping the downside, not boosting the upside.
Meanwhile, Tom Whitehead, writing in the same paper, reports a relevant court judgement:
The system of investigating people’s backgrounds for employment vetting much be overhauled because it is wrongly “tilted” in favour of protecting the public, the Supreme Court concluded.
It said this meant that individual rights could be damaged by “unreliable” or “out of date” details, especially with the use of so-called soft intelligence held by police, such as allegations or suspicions, in enhanced Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks.
In a victory against the growing Big Brother state, the justices, in their first judgment since the Supreme Court opened in Britain earlier this month, said there should no longer be a “presumption for disclosure” of such information, which could be “even mere suspicion or hints of matters which are disputed by the applicant”.
The ruling goes to the very heart of the Government’s controversial new barring and vetting scheme, under which at least 11 million people will have to undergo enhanced checks if they want to work with children or vulnerable adults.
There are already concerns that the disclosure of unproven allegations could end the careers of effectively innocent people.
The full judgement can be read here.