Revealed:The over budget safeguarding system that doesn’t know if your kids are safe from sexual predators

disclosure and barring service

Disclosure and Barring Service Pic Credit:


Another day, another waste of taxpayer’s money on a scheme run by private contractors that was meant to cut costs for employers but has ended up with a huge unforeseen bill for the taxpayer.

While the privatised part of the probation service has had to be bailed out by the Justice ministry, at the same time the Home Office is having to pay out hundreds of millions of pounds to keep on track the digitalisation of the Disclosure and Barring Service.

This is the service that provides proof that people working with children do not have criminal records, and aren’t paedophiles so children and vulnerable adults can be safe. The service -like many others- had been run by Capita.

The government in 2012 decided to digitalise the service – promising big savings for employers, and a new updating service transferring the cost to the person seeking the job.

By this year the Home Office thought the number of disclosure certificates needed by employers would drop by a massive 67 per cent as 2.8 million people  seeking work with children would pay out £13 a year for an update of their certificate negating the need for new certificates. The cost of certificates to employers was expected to be cut.

As a National Audit Office report  released recently shows nothing of the sort happened.

Instead only 900,000 people decided to do this. Why? Because normally the employer pays for the certificate so it costs the applicant nothing.

As a result the NAO says: “The update service is losing DBS £9 for every sale. DBS’s 2016-17 Annual Report and Accounts report that the update service costs DBS £22 but is priced at £13 per paying applicant per year. ”

Then the 2,250 profit making firms who check the identities – from GB Group plc and  Atlantic Data Ltd to Capita Resourcing Ltd. make much more money from processing full certificates than checking updates. So they never promoted the service on their websites.

But there was far worse to come. The government appointed Tata to modernise the service and  build a new IT system  and then promptly changed the specification of what was needed. This resulted in delays and led to a one year extension for Capita which was running the service. Payouts totalling £26m had to be made to Tata for the delays and changes.

And then costs rocketed by £229 million and it is now three and half years late. Bizarrely because people have not switched  to the update service the DBS has got extra income worth £304m. Tata and Capita are still making profits. Rewards for failure at a cost to employers.

So who lost out? First employers who were promised cheaper bills – each certificate costs them £56.

But also us. There is one thing the DBS don’t do. After supplying the information about a potential employee, they never check whether the employer does disbar him or her. Since the whole point of this huge process is to protect children and vulnerable adults from predators and violent abusers you might have thought they would check up.

And given the current fashion where people who claim to be sexually abused might not be believed or labelled fantasists – I don’t think we should wait for a horrible incident to find out.




Designer label Dudes: Beware of a new police ” street strip and search ” plan for Rotterdam

A Rotterdam police arrest pic credit Lou Robens

A Rotterdam police arrest – not yet to do with designer dudes Pic credit: Leo Roubos Flickr



If there is going to be a return to  the Met Police  expanding controversial ” stop and search ” of mainly black youths in London to combat rising knife crime – this is nothing compared to an initiative planned by police chiefs in Rotterdam to tackle suspected drug dealers.

The Dutch police are planning to stop  and search young people wearing designer gear in the city if they will decide they are too poor to be kitted out in Gucci jackets. If they don’t believe they should  be wearing them, they are going to confiscate them on the spot.

Frank Paauw, chief of Rotterdam police, is reported to have told De Telegraaf ( in Dutch). ” We are going to undress them in the street”.

“These young people have no income, sometimes even debts from a previous conviction, but also wear an outfit that exceeds 1500 euros. That is undermining the rule of law if you make it very big, but also a completely false signal to local residents. Taking away is therefore important, “says Paauw.

Police will be on the lookout for include “big Rolex[es], Gucci jackets, all those kinds of clothes,” the department spokesperson said.  One wonders what would happen if they are wearing Calvin Klein boxer shorts.

Not surprisingly people have slammed the idea  because it could lead to racial profiling. The  Netherlands version of the website  Vice contains some particularly strong criticism  after Vice spoke with  young people in Rotterdam.

“Police won’t consider a white guy walking around in an expensive jacket to be a potential drug dealer,” said Quincy, a 20-year-old man. “But it’ll be a different story with minorities.”


The Great £300m Probation Bail Out: You Pay, They Prey


Richard Heaton, permanent secretary Ministry of Justice. Pic Credit: wikipedia


On Wednesday two very highly paid civil servants £185,000 a year Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice and £190,000 a year Michael Spurr, Chief Executive, HM Prison and Probation Service will appear before MPs to explain their latest botch  up  – the privatisation failure of parts of the probation service.

I hope MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee will not only be briefed by the excellent National Audit Office report  and investigation into the failure of Community Rehabilitation Companies – the fancy name for profit making companies like Sodexo and Seetec.

They should also read the coruscating report by Dame Glenys Stacey HM Chief Inspector of Probation and Peter Clarke  HM Chief Inspector of Prisons last June on the performance of these companies and their failure to either help ex offenders go straight or protect the public from child abusers and  perpetrators of domestic violence.

This sorry tale goes back to 2015 when Chris Grayling ( he of the  current Virgin rail privatisation botch ups)  was Justice Secretary and thought it a brilliant idea to privatise swathes of the probation service for prisoners serving 12 months or more who were at low risk of self harm.

Michael Spurr

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the Prisons and Probation Service. Image credit: Channel4

From the very beginning they bungled it. They planned to give the 21 companies £3.7 billion until 2022 to handle and help large numbers of prisoners. The companies planned for this but Whitehall  had overestimated the number of low risk ex offenders leaving prison and underestimated the number of high risk ex offenders who are still being helped by the publicly run probation service. As a result the companies would only get £2.1 billion.

So of course now the companies are in deep trouble facing losses of  £443m by 2022. So what do these top civil servants do. They give them more  of your cash to help them with their profit margins.

They have had a £42m bail out for dealing with fewer offenders in 2016 and another £22m to keep the companies going while the ministry kindly re-negotiates their contracts  to deal with fewer ex prisoners.

It has now agreed to pay another £278m up to 2022 but has changed the terms of contract so the private firms will get even less money if any of the released prisoners re-offend.

Now if you read the inspectors’ report on the performance of these companies, this is a sick joke. The inspectors think their provision is so bad and useless that they might as well not exist.

They said: “Clearly there is more time for resettlement work with these prisoners, but CRCs are making little difference to their prospects on release. We found them no better served than their more transient fellow prisoners were some eight months ago. The overall picture was bleak. If Through the Gate services were removed tomorrow, in our view the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible. ”

But not only are they useless but they could be a menace to society. They were so bad at rehabilitating prisoners – they spent their time sitting at desks  writing up reports on the computers – rather than helping them face to face. Some prisoners left to become homeless with little chance of getting a job.

But more seriously they let out child abusers, violent individuals who had beaten up their partners and drug addicts putting their victims at risk by having no proper supervision or rehabilitation plans.

In my view this £300m would be better spent funding refuges for victims of domestic  violence ( in desperate short supply) or linking it back to the publicly run service.

You are paying for these companies to prey  on the taxpayer without  delivering any decent result and also allow  released criminals to prey on  their victims by their failure to rehabilitate them. No doubt the two highly paid civil servants will distance themselves from their failed policy  when they appear before MPs on Wednesday







Exclusive: Are whistleblowers now too frit to reveal when NHS patients and care home residents are in danger?


Dr Henrietta Hughes, 4 day a week National Guardian Pic Credit: CQC


Tucked away in a recent National Audit Office report on the NHS and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, is the extraordinary statistic that the number of whistleblowers who tipped off the regulator fell by a staggering 16 per cent to 7452 in 2016-17. That is one in six fewer whistleblowers than the previous year. See paragraph 2.19 of the report.

The figure compares with 153,000 members of the public – an increase of one per cent – expressing concerns about services during the same period.

I have written about this in Tribune this week.

And the latest figures come after  a report by Robert Francis QC to Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary,which was highly critical of the way some had been treated after they made a complaint.

In 2015, Francis reported widespread severe victimisation of staff by senior management when they spoke up for patients. Francis recognised that sacked whistleblowers are blacklisted and recommended a re-employment scheme but nothing seems to have come of it.

His most substantial recommendation was for a National Guardian to protect staff. This led the CQC to create a part time post with no powers. The first appointee, Dame Eileen Sills, quit before starting.

Since then Dr Henrietta Hughes . a GP has been appointed  as National Guardian, on a four day week. And according  to the CQC  yesterday marked her first year as the National Guardian for the NHS with the publication of her first case review report and her annual report highlighting the work of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.

The one case review she published covered Southport and Ormskirk Health Trust which  has the unenviable reputation for bullying and discriminating against black and ethnic minority staff , a dodgy appointments system favouring some people against others and an attitude of not bothering when staff raise concerns about patients. This might sound familiar incidently for those who have followed my articles on staff practices at the Equality and Human Rights Commission but we should wait for the employment tribunals to see what happened there.

Dr Hughes has recommended a series of recommendations to put matters right – 22 in all – and there is promise from the interim chief executive of the trust, Karen Jackson, to act  with a new senior management team. We shall see. Also this was a trial – how many reports are we going to get from her in future?

The National Guardian has also produced a series of high flown documents which sound terribly good in theory – but again I think we should wait to see what happens.

What has happened so far is that the appointment of a national guardian has coincided with a drop in whistleblowers telling the CQC when things are going wrong.

What we do know is that staff do lose jobs are blacklisted and get the reputation of being troublemakers. There is a  website which covers 11 such cases here. All designed I suspect to cover up an NHS and care system creaking at the seams and not being adequately financed. I hope Dr Hughes does not turn out to be a convenient fig leaf for a service in trouble.


An Establishment cover up: The sordid and sad saga of sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball

bishop peter ball

Bishop Peter Ball at his trial . Pic Credit: BBC


The Church of England has finally fully acknowledged the impact of the predatory sexual abuse committed by one of its most charismatic former bishops Peter Ball.

A forensic report by Dame Moira Gibb into both his activities and the cover up by the church  of his behaviour which reached the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, (now Lord Carey) to protect the Church’s reputation.

It is a grim story only coming light after the former Bishop of Gloucester was successfully prosecuted and jailed in 2015 after  a career  of physically and sexually abusing and exploiting  boys and young men, including some who were particularly vulnerable.

The report says : “He had used his position within the Church to identify those whom he then abused. and admitted two offences of indecent assault and a further offence of misconduct in public office.”

Tragically a young man, Neil Todd, who had first accused him in 1993  of abusing him in when he was 17 killed himself in 2012 when  Sussex Police re-opened an investigation when he was Bishop of Lewes.

Equally culpable, though not an abuser, is Michael Ball, his twin brother and former Bishop of Truro, who ran a campaign after his brother had been given a caution for abusing Todd in 1993 to rehabilitate him using every type of pressure he could find.

None of the authorities, with the exception of Sussex police, come out of this well, Neither the Church, Lambeth Palace, Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is litany of failed responsibility among those in power and also the misuse of power and reputation to protect the powerful.

Peter Ball comes out of this report as a manipulative, sadomasochistic  predator who appears to have used every trick to entice young men from public schoolboys to priests and damaged and vulnerable youths coming to the Church  for his own sexual  gratification. It is not clear  even now at 85 whether he shows any remorse as he refused to co-operate with Dame Moira’s inquiry.

While on the surface being a charismatic leader he and his brother appear to have conned  the Establishment to cover up his  activity and the Establishment appear to have been prepared to do so.

The report reveals how he wanted to whip Neil Todd who was only saved by worried staff at the Bishop’s house who sent him away. He also got youths to strip off in the chapel so they could pray together in the nude and even used a ceremony to anoint a youth’s penis in some bizarre religious rite.

But  as bad is the 20 year cover up . This included dragging Prince Charles into Ball’s defence – by using his privileged access to Highgrove House – to claim, falsely, as an examination of letters between Ball  and the Prince show, that he supported his cause. According to the report even a commercial arrangement that allows Ball and his brother to rent a house off the Duchy of Cornwall was twisted to say this was a Royal favour.

Lord carey

Lord Carey: Former archbishop of Canterbury Pic credit: BBC

Lord Carey emerges as a very weak character in this sorry saga. On the one level he is aware of Ball’s transgressions and tries to investigate, on another level he intervenes with the aim, whatever he says in a letter to Gloucestershire’s chief constable, to prevent a public trial of a Bishop by just issuing a caution. In the end this is done in return for his resignation as bishop. It is here that Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which now admits its mistake, are totally at fault. Lord Carey also failed to pass on information to the police on people Ball abused and defended his reputation to the police.

Then after this ” escape from justice” he and his brother pursue a ruthless campaign to rehabilitate him  as a priest – which is successful. They demand  money from the archbishop to fund their expenses, insist on his reinstatement as  a priest in his brother’s parish  ( at one stage his brother actually threatens to do this without Lambeth Palace’s permission) and he even gets an honorary retired bishop’s post from the  Bishop of Chichester.

The report recommends a strengthening of safeguarding in the Church of England and will be considered by the independent child sex abuse inquiry. But what it doesn’t address – and it is outside its terms of reference – is the glaring issue of homosexuality in the Church.

To put it in its historic context these events take place when people who were homosexuals in public life often lived  a double life for fear of exposure in the press. This was the time when  David Atkinson, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East was publicly a happily married man with a wife and children while secretly leading a double gay life in the House of Commons.

It was also the time when Britain’s first successful black footballer, Justin Fashanu, led a troubled double life attracted to young men, which led to his suicide when the US law caught up with him.

One wonders whether if as now – when to be openly gay no longer is a problem  and gay marriage is acceptable  ( except to the Democratic Unionist party)  Ball could have had a stable relationship instead.  Or was he a predatory abuser anyway? This is not to excuse the Ball twins from the appalling sexual abuse and cover up that followed. But it suggests the Church has got to address a wider problem than just the abuse.

The full report is here.



How Romania’s inhumane prison system led to the tragic death of a campaigning newspaper owner


Dan Adamescu who dies this week after falling seriously ill in an inhumane Romanian prison system.



Earlier this month this blog covered the plight of Alexander Adamescu, the joint owner of Romania’s oldest newspaper, who is facing extradition from the UK on what are seen as trumped up charges of bribery using the European Arrest Warrant.

His father, Dan, who was the co-owner of Romania Libera, Romania’s oldest newspaper was in prison serving a four year sentence on similar charges and his family were planning to fight the state over the way they are trying to close down his companies.

Now tragically his father has died – after a short period in hospital – one of a large number of people who die every year because of the notorious nature of the Romanian prison regime.


His son Alexander states :“On January 24, right after midnight, Dan Adamescu, aged 68, died in a hospital in Bucharest, without having his family close to him. Sentenced on June 5, 2014 following a trial that relied on false testimonies, he was consecutively imprisoned in 3 penitentiaries, where his health status became increasingly serious. Hospitalized in his last months of his life – which he spent being intubated and in semi-inducted coma – the 15 diseases he had made his body become more and more weak, and the deadly blow was given by the pathogenic bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus, with which he was contaminated in the inhuman conditions from the prison”

He mentions that his father went through difficult moments in the penitentiaries where he was imprisoned, given his health status.

“Jailed in unspeakable conditions in the Remand Center – 6 to 8 detainees in a cell of a few sq. m. at the basement, without closets, without room to move, with Turkish toilet – and not once, because of the atrophied muscles and of his ill knee, he felt I his own excrements – jailed for 23 of 24 hours – because he was allowed to go out for 1 hour, in the 30 sq. m. called “outdoor” (actually, a closed room of approx. 30 sq. m., having grids instead of the ceiling, extremely dirty) – he was moved later to the Rahova Penitentiary, where he shared a cell with 6 detainees, but because of his sharpened health status and of his inability to move, he remained permanently blocked in the cell.

Besides, for some bureaucratic reason, the treatment that he needed desperately wasn’t administered for 37 days, although medicines have been brought by my aunt, and his life was in real danger. Moving him to the Jilava Penitentiary was a new ordeal for my father… so he went from here to the Floreasca Emergency Clinical Hospital, directly in syncope; only after 10 days of medical care his vital functions have been restored, following a serious infection spread throughout his body” .

The issue of prison conditions in Romania- where nearly 500 people have died over the last five years often due to the lack of medical treatment –  has already been challenged in the High Court in London by the international human rights lawyer, Ben Emmerson ( who also represented Alexander Livenenko’s widow in the recent public inquiry into his poisoning by plutonium). He has taken up the cases of other people being extradited by the Romanians and the prison.

Romania’s cramped and unsanitary prison conditions mean that pre-trial detention has also become a kind of punishment. Prison standards are so bad that between 1998 and 2015, the European Court of Human Rights found Romania guilty of 178 violations of Article 3 of the ECHR prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment. The court recorded 27 violations in 2015.

This sad end  to his father’s life strongly adds to the need for some action to stop the extradition of his son who blames the Romanian authorities for his early death.


2017: Year of the Death Star?


2016 had little to recommend it. A string of deaths from Brian Rix to Carrie Fisher, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen plus the  first murder this century of a British MP, Jo Cox.

For me the election of Donald Trump and Brexit were bad news and  game changing decisions as well the miserable daily reporting of death and destruction in Syria and Yemen.

And if you add  increasingly unstable weather – flooding in Britain and hurricanes in Haiti – provides a further depressing background.

At home further cuts in public services and increasing pressure on the NHS and the near collapse of  Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse didn’t help either.

So what does 2017 offer? First of  all hopefully some clarity.

Over Brexit we are in a ” phoney war” situation – the decision has been taken but nothing has happened. Apart from the fall in the pound people have seen little change. We are still accepting changes in regulations from the EU but we are no longer such an active player.

The real picture will emerge in March  or April when we trigger Article 50 – and the meaningless mantra ” Brexit means Brexit” will have to be replaced by  real negotiation.

And then the real decision making by business will begin and the effects will become much clearer to the British people.  From what I gather the first move may well be  some banks moving their HQ’s out of the UK if we adopt ” hard Brexit”.

Theresa May will have to drop her “no running commentary” stance – because any journo worth his salt will be able to get Britain’s position from any of the 27 other countries involved in the negotiations.

The second big unknown is Donald Trump. If we take what he has said it looks as though  the US will come closer to Russia, take on China, blow up Isis and Iran, use nuclear weapons if necessary and restart the arms race. He is also a climate change sceptic, doesn’t believe he has to be briefed by the security services and has pioneered Twitter diplomacy – announcing his views on line – rather than using normal confidential diplomatic channels. If he continues like this he will make Wikileaks redundant as they won’t be any need for diplomatic secrets.

But the trend appears clear: more intolerance of other races, religions and gays rather than bringing people together. In other words,  in a stroke a dangerous world will become an even more dangerous place. Hence my Death Star warning.

What do  I hope for 2017 ?

A less aggressive and more tolerant Britain – that realises that cutting our links with Europe is self defeating.

A less dangerous world that perhaps leaves Trump realising that you can’t bulldoze your way ignoring the consequences and you can’t stigmatise an entire religion just because there are some fanatics – there are fanatics in all religions not least in the United States.

Finally in I hope the crippled child sex abuse inquiry gets its act together to do a proper job – to deal with a problem that the country wishes to ignore and is far more serious than most people realise..

A Happy New Year to you all.