Recruiter 'let down' by criminal vetting
HAWKE'S BAY REPORTER
A recruitment agency manager says he has lost faith in criminal record checks after a loophole in the law brought him close to employing a child-sex offender.
The loophole means convictions for which name suppression is granted do not appear on a person's criminal record unless that person requests a full record.
It was brought to light this month by The Dominion Post after it revealed that a voluntary organisation in Hawke's Bay had unknowingly taken on a man convicted of raping his daughter because his conviction was omitted from his criminal record.
In the latest case, the branch manager of a national recruitment agency requested a criminal record check from the Justice Ministry on a job applicant, and was told there was "no information held or able to be released".
By the time the letter arrived, the applicant had already admitted he had a past conviction for sexually assaulting a minor, and was not offered the job.
The unnamed manager, who has been in the recruitment business for more than a decade, said he called the ministry and was told: "He may have been telling the truth, but we had a suppression order so could not tell you anything."
"I said, ‘Well hang on, you've sent me a ministry document that makes no mention of his serious crime. I could have put him in a position with a cleaning outfit contracted to a school. I can't see how that's right.'
"She told me the only person who can overrule the suppression was the judge.
"I got off the phone and felt really let down. I wondered how many people I'd put into work with the same sort of conviction.
"It seems odd to me that we do these checks and find out someone has a conviction for smoking a bit of pot, or a relatively minor assault, and we're condemning them, but we're allowing other people with much more serious convictions on to clients' properties because we cannot be told of their convictions.
"We have no trust in these checks at all any more."
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the ministry’s system was not set up to be a comprehensive security check and it should not be used for this purpose.
"It should be used only as part of a recruiting and screening process. The decision about an individual's suitability for a position remains with the employer/organisation.
"Unlike the ministry’s system, the police system is designed to vet people for risks that cannot be disclosed by the ministry. Any approved employer that works with children, the elderly or other vulnerable people can use this comprehensive safety check."
Labour's justice spokesman, Charles Chauvel, said employers with staff regularly in contact with children or vulnerable people could get police vetting carried out.
He accepted that other employers might want access to full records, but said there was no evidence that those employers who needed all criminal records on their employees were not getting them.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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