The Met rejects the suggestion that cases were improperly closed placing the most vulnerable in danger. Safeguarding is, and will always be, of paramount importance to the Met.
The Met’s Character Enquiry Centre (CEC) adheres to the Home Office national standards which are legislatively compliant and works in conjunction with partner agencies including the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).
In June 2016, the Met confirmed that there were over 81,000 outstanding cases with an average waiting time of 59 days. This presented risk to the most vulnerable, in that employment of key workers could be significantly delayed. Alternatively, an unsuitable employee could take up employment before local police checks were completed. The cause of the problem was acknowledged as a significant increase in demand for the Met disclosure service, as well as the recruitment and retention of staff.
Under the leadership of a Management Board member, a Gold Group was immediately convened, and worked in close conjunction with the Home Office, DBS and the NPCC. Significant work was undertaken to address these risks. Some of the Met’s working practices on DBS checks, compared against the national police baseline, were found to exceed other working practices nationally and these were brought in line with the national competencies.
The team was reorganised to contain and address the number of outstanding cases awaiting processing, staffing levels were increased and the support of colleagues from other forces was enlisted. Working practices were also reviewed to find greater efficient and effective ways of working.
In addition, some cases were closed based on the risk assessment and recommendation made by the then Interim Head. Subsequent dip sampling of cases and re-assessment of the original risk assessment provided quality reassurance about this action. Operating under very strict guidelines, a number of other cases were closed once it had been assessed that the action already taken mitigated the existing and prevailing risks to the most vulnerable. As part of the plan to minimise risk, a number of those have been reviewed and it has been found that no disclosure of locally held police information would have been made.
Finally, cost recovery for the CEC work is based on the actual costs of running the unit.