Tory response to the Humphreys case is to call for DBS checks on all councillors, even candidates.

There are four levels of DBS check. They reveal what criminal records may be held on central police records and for enhanced checks, local records as well. Lower levels report “unspent” convictions, higher levels “spent” convictions as well:

  • Basic DBS
  • Standard DBS
  • Enhanced DBS
  • Enhanced DBS with barring list

Which are we going for?

The interesting question is whether or when DBS checks would have prevented either of the “rotten apples” cases highlighted by Owl.. Remember you are innocent until found guilty.

As has been pointed out in a recent comment, DBS checks are not without flaws and may provide a false sense of security.

The introduction of blanket DBS checks for councillors just by virtue of being a councillor, rather than on the basis  of their access to vulnerable groups, is something Owl believes should be considered nationally, not introduced by councils piecemeal.

Owl notes the Tory commitment to promoting openness and transparency. Maybe councillors’ declaration of interests would benefit from being given greater scrutiny?

Clearing the way forward – East Devon’s Conservative Group calls for mandatory DBS checks for councillors

Councillor Phil Twiss exmouth.nub.news 

Following the sentencing of a former member of East Devon District Council (EDDC) after being found guilty of despicable sexual crimes against children, the Conservative Group of councillors on EDDC are calling for Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks for all existing councillors.

The Conservative Group wants every prospective candidate and all existing councillors to undergo the checks which show any criminal convictions now, with the enhanced version required if an individual is expected to work with vulnerable people, including children, being demonstrated as necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move would improve safety and protection whilst promoting openness and transparency. Previous calls by the Conservative Group to introduce such a measure have been ignored by other groups within the council.

Cllr Colin Brown, Leader of the Conservative Group, said: “We are shocked and appalled by the horrendous crimes that have come to light and our thoughts are with the victims.

“We must do everything we can to protect the public and we are calling for DBS checks to be carried out on every existing councillor and future candidates.

“I would like to see this initiative implemented as a prerequisite for standing and serving as a councillor and we plan to introduce the measure for anyone wanting to join the Conservative Group.

“We are calling on every councillor and the current leadership of the council to back our call and introduce the checks as soon as possible.

“It may not currently be a legal requirement, but it is unquestionably the right thing to do and if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

4 thoughts on “Tory response to the Humphreys case is to call for DBS checks on all councillors, even candidates.

  1. Is it true that Humphreys was subject to bail conditions restricting his access to children, possibly from a date in 2016? Attributed to his very determined defence brief in court.

    If so did these apply right up until his formal charging and trial?

    If that is the case then he was subject to controls for 5 years as a councillor, while he sought re-election as a town councillor in 2019, when he was made an alderman in the same year and when he attended an EDDC cabinet meeting in September 2017 which overturned a full council decision to mandate DBS checks for all councillors?

    Whether or not this is the case his former colleagues must surely feel a sense of obligation to provide a full statement of the access to children he achieved while on council and party business.

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  2. Please forgive a second comment – assuming my first got through.

    I mentioned earlier the unhelpful ‘If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’ comments often relied upon and usually encountered when there is a lack of other evidence, and, looking back blow me if Cllr Twiss didn’t resort to such tactics at the end of his comments. I hope we can look forward to knowing more, indeed everything about Cllr Twiss from henceforth.

    Having seen many good comments on the web before debunking this saying, I looked again and I noticed something on a Swedish (?) website about the phrase (https://falkvinge.net/2012/07/19/debunking-the-dangerous-nothing-to-hide-nothing-to-fear/) that made me think of a classic and relevant counter to the advice from Twiss. Think a moment about an individual’s private health details as recorded by one’s general practitioner. The example verifies several points made in the Swedish site and not least the one about you never know what will happen later. So, those very private and personal conversations that you have had with your GP, the basis for a full trusting discussion to aid your health care, is the very data that the Tory government now wishes to extract and flog off to goodness knows who, here and abroad. It used to be sacrosanct but now the Tory government wants to change that. Fear that- and opt out even though the proposal has been pulled back.

    Don’t for one moment fall for that nonsense that the data is stripped of identifiable elements. If, for example, you suffer from a rare disease then you are very easy to identify because it is unlikely that nobody in your postcode has the same problem. Outside of medicine, why do you think everyone wants you to accept cookies every page you visit on the internet? It is to collect and connect the dots. It is so easy for the pros to identify you from data gathering- and then to make you pay in one way or another. Yet they cannot spot a pedophile apparently -well, (blackmail aside), there’s no profit in that. And, who amongst us hasn’t spotted a mistake in the data your doctor of NHS hospital has on you, some minor, or some potentially more serious element such as incorrect allergies?

    Taking refuge in statements such as that from Twiss is the sign of a weak argument.

    EDDC under his party’s control was the home of every obstruction to gathering information possible and transparency was almost non-existent – but the hypocrisy of such comment is not wasted on the general public who recognise that the old Tories had much to fear- and indeed a Gb or two (geddit?) from within their very own ranks.

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  3. From what I can determine, government has on more than one occasion considered the question of who should be subject to DBS checks and it decided that councillors, by virtue of that position alone, need not. Anyone asked them why?

    I do not recall a call by any body representing councillors that the government thinking is wrong on this.

    Councillors who maybe required to interact with vulnerable persons, by virtue of some relative port folio, should be required to have checks appropriate to the involvement. That is not in dispute but it is the nature of the interaction/port folio not the position as councillor that drives the requirement.

    I’ve heard some councillors say ‘oh but we visit the elderly or whatever so we should be checked’ . Well so do post-people, canvassers, painters and decorators and countless others. What is so special about councillors in this regard? Such visits are relatively rare compared to other home visits and if you bring in councillors then tens of thousands of others need them by virtue of their occasional home visits.

    It is worth remembering that the sole purpose of DBS checks is solely to protect vulnerable individuals. It is not to ‘enhance’ the standing of those councillors who might like to think – “look at me I’ve got a level X clear DBS check”- or several as I recall at least one EDDC councillor stating straight off the bat when this was first discussed!

    Having some past close working experience in the criminal intelligence gathering field, though before DBS checks as they now exist came in, I frankly don’t place too much trust in them. Most certainly I would not rely on them as a guarantee of character. They can and do give a completely false sense of security.

    I have yet to determine whether Humphreys had, or applied for, any such checks. Should he have done so not least given some of the reports of his other non-council but ‘official ‘ work involving placements and other so far unmentioned work? The level of check needed for him would perhaps needed to have been at the highest level to pick up that he may have been interviewed over allegations (I still don’t know for sure if he was interviewed under caution as a suspect) or at what might be called the informed but reliable gossip level of criminal intelligence. (and the ‘gossip level’ is a minefield) If councillors should be DBS checked at what level should it be – again, what is so special about them yet isn’t enough for government? One cannot help but wonder why nothing was picked up through his lodge connections and passed on to authorities- my (non-member) experience is that some can be pretty tight with one another and I note, not all such memberships have been declared locally.

    At the present time there is already a weeding system for applicants for councillor positions at the very outset though government rules- that though needs to be tightened and would continue to be applied nationally, (necessary not least so that there are no repeats of certain London Labour MP’s sons avoiding the restrictions or being required to resign because they had only been arrested for drug dealing when the form was completed and had not yet been convicted)

    We should and must protect vulnerable people – yet we fail them constantly. I believe that far too much trust is placed on DBS checks which are at the very best, simply a snapshot in time and often incomplete especially in areas that matter most. Every single sex offender would be able to pass a DBS check at some point in time and continue to be able to do so until he or she does something that would raise a qualifying flag that makes them a more likely bet of being a risky character and ‘failing’ a DBS. Can a DBS check EVER protect the first victim? The claim that Jimmy Saville could have had a clean sheet DBS wise seems to me to be quite a reasonable one given he was given the keys for Broadmoor and Stoke Manderville.

    It does concern me that existing measure are not smart enough – but this is part of a wider national debate about intelligence gathering, respect for privacy and labelling. It is very complex and not for here.

    The local clamour for DBS councillor checks seems more political and profile raising than a reasonable and sound suggestion aimed explicitly at enhancing protection for vulnerable people at large. I fail to understand why anyone truly concerned with protecting vulnerable people would only argue for their district and not the country. Starting local doesn’t wash in such matters. That said, it is worth noting that arguing against it as a councillor opens one up to unhelpful ‘what have you got to hide arguments’ so I understand why the calls may go unchallenged . But, as joe public, and with some knowledge of the system, I can and do challenge the call. I challenge those parties suggesting it as to whether they are really serious about protecting the vulnerable or whether they have another agenda. Do you have a past and proven record of raising it nationally – which would be the sensible thing to do? Have you got the issue lined up for regional and national political conferences. Have you asked questions of government questioning the present system? If you have why haven’t you opened up about it? Let’s see the paperwork if you have, show us just how committed you are to protecting the vulnerable across the country and not just East Devon.

    If such evidence is not forthcoming I think we will be entitled to question whether this is just a shameful diversion from East Devon Tories to deflect just how rotten some of their core members have been and how little they have done to keep their house in order, or something else.

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  4. Poor, shameless, disingenuous stuff from the local tories.

    Do they really expect the public to overlook the fact that they are responsible for enabling this pervert’s access to children for the past 15 years?

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