Liberal Democrats seek ‘rolling’ criminal records checks for all Councillors

Oldham Liberal Democrat Councillors want to see ‘rolling’ criminal records checks introduced for all elected members as part of an ongoing campaign to improve safeguarding and reassure the public.

The Liberal Democrats have previously called on the government to bar Councillors from office, or standing for office, if they are convicted of an offence requiring them to sign the Sex Offenders Register. They have also asked the government to tighten up existing legislation to ensure that all persons in a ‘position of trust’ who are currently exempted, such as sports coaches, cannot lawfully engage in sexual activity with a young person in their care.

At present, all Oldham Councillors must apply for an enhanced criminal record check at the start of every four-year term of office. This is vetted by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, recently suggested to Council senior managers that ‘rolling’ DBS checks be introduced for all elected members, as happens with teachers, but he was told this was not possible under the law. He has now taken his case further by writing to the Chair and Chief Executive of the DBS itself for an explanation of the legal position.

Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “Elected members are rightly expected by their electorates to be law-abiding, upright citizens who are sincere in their commitment to serve their community. Contrary to what you might read online, the vast majority of councillors of all parties, and none, fit this description, but regrettably there are rare occasions, when elected members do break the law whilst in office and are also sometimes convicted of offences that outrage both their peers and public decency.”

Councillor Sykes added: “If we had ‘rolling’ DBS checks for all councillors, we would discover any offending behaviour, and be able to act upon it, more quickly. This would enable us to better safeguard young people and vulnerable people placed at risk because of the behaviour of offenders, but also take other appropriate action as a Council against that offender, such as excluding them from inappropriate posts.”

He concluded: “I hope that the Chair and Chief Executive of the Disclosure and Barring Service will respond to my letter by confirming that we can in fact introduce these checks and where in the legislation it is permissible, so we can get on with it. If the government also did as we have asked, instead of continuing to sit on their hands, and changed the law to exclude from office councillors who are convicted and forced to sign the Sex Offenders Register, then that would also aid us immensely.”

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