Camden criticised after CRB check failure

Camden Council’s school transport service arrangements have been judged as “inadequate” after a vulnerable child was sexually abused by a hired driver.

Following the incident it was found that the driver had a list of criminal convictions abroad for offences against children.

In her report on the case, Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin said when contracting out transport services, councils must ensure proper safeguards are in place.

She said: “This case has illustrated the importance of proper safeguards being in place when children are being transported to and from school. Councils must set out clearly their expectations of contractors and monitor those arrangements to make sure they are working properly.”

Despite the previous convictions the driver involved in the case had managed to obtain an enhanced certificate from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), which is currently being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Martin added: “This investigation has highlighted a number of learning points which have implications for councils and their contractors. The child’s mother who brought her complaint to me wanted to prevent a similar situation occurring in future. By doing so, she has brought important issues to wider public attention.”

Camden Council accepted that improvements should be made to its procedures for contracting out transport services and has already changed its policy so that contractors are now required to appoint staff using recruitment and appointment procedures that equal or exceed the council’s own procedures.

The council was asked to pay the child’s mother £1,200 for her distress and the time taken in pursuing her complaint.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: “This is a tragic case and we would again like to express our apologies to the family and offer them our continued support.

“Our contractor did check that this man was cleared to work with children but unfortunately faults with the CRB system meant that his previous crimes were not recorded and his CRB checks confirmed that his record was clean.

“There is important learning here for all the agencies involved with children and we have been working with our contractors on recruitment and awareness to ensure that everyone has the tools and the confidence to flag up when things don’t seem right.”