If A Person Falls Over in a Forest of Paperwork and Nobody Sees The Appropriate Document, Does it Mean They Don’t Exist?

Anonymous people

Britain has long had a reputation for bureaucracy and red tape. There is a fanatical fastidiousness about British organisations and the public sector that keeps armies of admin and clerical workers documenting, verifying, copying and countersigning in duplicate and triplicate, all manner of data and detail for… I don’t know. I suppose it gives people who have a remarkable capacity for retaining a pulse whilst enduring chronically mundane tasks for 35+ hours a week a calling in life. However, despite this commitment to the finicky detail of detailing the details of data in order to ensure documentation is valid and secure, things still go tits up, failings are still made and fuck-ups do ensue. When this happens, there’s an ‘enquiry’, followed by a ‘report’, which is usually followed by a resignation, a tasty pay off, and the application of a new set of rules demanding another layer of bureaucratic documentation.

In 2002 the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) was introduced in England and Wales to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from the vile beasts that would manipulate themselves into positions where they would pray on them. In principle it is a good idea, as it provides some resource for schools and relevant organisations to vet people who have a criminal past, before hiring them to take up a position that they may exploit for illicit purposes. There was already the Department for Education and Skills’ List 99, which is a confidential register of all people convicted or suspected of child abuse, violent crimes or drug offences. However, the standard CRB system of checks also covers cautions and warnings, and even convictions that may have expired. An ‘Enhanced Disclosure’ goes further and includes any other information held on file that may be relevant, such as investigations that have not led to a criminal record, like nine charges of rape and underage sex in the space of four years for instance (read on).

Naturally there were teething troubles when the CRB was first introduced and tragically, whilst these teething troubles were being ironed out, school caretaker Ian Huntley murdered two school children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Ian Huntley - just an ordinary bloke who likes to rape and murder children

Ian Huntley – just an ordinary bloke who likes to rape and murder children

It’s probably impossible to have an airtight vetting system without grossly abusing individual’s privacy and human rights, but over the space of four years, Ian Huntley had nine charges of rape and underage sex against his name before he was employed by a school as a caretaker. This information was documented and recorded by social workers and police forces, but despite happening at a time when computer databases and ICT were becoming commonplace, none of these organisations thought that it might be useful to share this information with each other for safeguarding purposes. Incidentally, it’s interesting that it’s noted that one of the main reasons the CRB was introduced was to protect organisations from litigation, which makes you question the moral focus of our lawmakers – but that’s another posting.

There’s a naively simplistic level of thinking amongst certain people in our society; those ‘normal’, law abiding, taxpaying, un-questioning, rule-following members of society, civil service and the public sector. These types of people are often guilty of placing people in boxes and using those boxes as building blocks of rationality. These people can’t think outside of the box and follow blindly according to instructions. These people wouldn’t have sat in the CRB meeting and raised their hand to say ‘There’s tons of literature proving that many dangerous and pathological criminals – particular sex offenders – are intelligent and manipulative and may very well have a history of charges and allegations that have not as yet led to convictions. Do you think we should have something in place to check for that type of thing?’  These people see things in black and white and think that it’s only people who have been proved to have broken the law – no matter what that law was – are wrongdoers and are dirty and tainted forever, unable to ever hold any significant position in society. These people can’t see the wood for the pile of trees that have been chopped down to make the paper by which they are instructed, informed and subsequently base the blueprint of their thinking and rationale on. These people have no capacity for abstract reasoning. They’re like automated drones who blindly follow their programmed procedure without employing common sense or initiative.

I have nothing against the CRB, that’s not what this posting is about. I think CRB checks are a good idea and very necessary, but sadly, shit happens that you are never going to be able to prevent. A CRB check isn’t going to tell you a great deal about a person who is evading the law. A CRB check is not going to provide any protection against creepy, celebrity, paedophiles like Jimmy Savile getting away with it, because a CRB check can’t highlight people of low, moral character working in showbiz who are prepared to turn a blind eye to child abuse rather than jeopardise their careers. What a CRB check does is cast a wide net over anybody who has any criminal record and judge them based off that record. What a CRB check does is provide a cursory snapshot of that criminal record without going into any character detail.

The problem is, when you apply for a CRB check, what comes back is an indiscriminate private record of your past that doesn’t take into account whether the information is really necessary for disclosure. Any crime that you have committed, no matter how venal or embarrassing, is now revealed to some clerical worker in your office. So if you got caught shoplifting some knickers from Woolworths when you were 18, then 23 year old Garry, the admin support worker from HR, probably knows about it and had a good laugh at your expense with his friends at the weekend when they were sniffing lines of coke off his new IKEA table during the house warming party he had to celebrate the new mortgage he’s just anchored himself with on an overpriced plasterboard apartment in the city centre that he bought for a snip at £149k. You’re not a pederast or an armed robber or a drug smuggler or a DJ from the 70’s, but since you sign kids in at the reception at the community centre that Garry also works at, it is imperative that your private life of 20 years ago becomes the public property of Garry’s anecdotal work whinges at the weekend. You may have thought that Garry smiled at you in that way because he fancied you, and maybe you even had the odd fantasy of having an affair with the young man from HR; but really he’s smirking at the idea that you once stuffed a 3-pack of knickers down your blouse and tried to do a runner from Woolly’s back in 1983, and he’s wondering whether they were the Bridget Jones type that reach up above the navel – and if you still wear them.

Knowing Too Much Information copy

I work with young people and vulnerable adults and it is necessary for me to have an enhanced disclosure. CRB checks are at the discretion of your employer, so whilst some say they need to be updated every 3 years and some say 5, my employer has decided that he wants it updated every year. I understand this to a certain degree, as it would be very easy for me to commit GBH at the weekend, go through the whole procedure of court, conviction and suspended sentence over the course of the subsequent year without my employer being any the wiser. But the bizarre thing is the verification of who I am, that really only needs to be done the once, surely? It’s not so much me having to re-verify who I am that is the strange thing, the office manager has to verify who our boss is. So that means that the employee of our employer has to officially verify that the person that employed her and pays her wages – the person for whom she has to go and see to have cheques countersigned and authorised and verify any payment of goods – now has to have him bring in documentation to prove that he really is who he is for the purposes of this CRB check. This is surely an unnecessary detail!?

Our office manager is one of these people who lives life by instructions and does nothing outside of the conventional rules. She is nice, inoffensive, but very dull. She would never do anything to harm you or anyone else, but I couldn’t see her ever doing anything extraordinary in your defence either. I’ve been sat alone in the office with our office manager for whole days at a time and forgotten she was even there. I often forget she exists. Sometimes I walk into work and when I see her it startles me because I am reminded that she does actually exist. When I received an email off her requesting the relevant documentation required to prove my identity in order to corroborate my CRB application, I asked her if she really needed me to dig out my passport [again] and a recent utility bill [again] and council tax bill [again] to confirm that I was indeed the same work colleague that had been sat across the room from her in the office we have worked in together over the last year, and that I wasn’t someone who had raped and molested children whilst on the run from drug smuggling and multiple murder charges, who had kidnapped the real me and locked him in a room whilst I had corrective surgery on my face and vocal chords like Nicholas Cage in ‘Face Off’ during a period that the real me was off sick or on holiday, in order for me to imitate the real me so that I could sneak into the workplace of the real me and gain access to children so that I could continue my evil paedophile ways?

She said; “Yes”.

She said if she didn’t she could get arrested (I’m really not joking about this bit). So I asked her – “Do you really think the Judge would be able to keep the jury from laughing long enough to actually continue with the resulting court proceedings from your heinous deception?” – but she didn’t want to play my hypothetical game anymore.

'Mike was stunned to find out he'd been the victim of identity theft'

‘Mike was stunned to find out he’d been the victim of identity theft’

The ridiculous thing about verification of identity is that the very people whom you are giving your personal details to aren’t exactly carefully vetted Secret Service Operatives themselves. I was on holiday in Portugal one summer and I had a massive fallout with my then girlfriend, so I decided to go missing for a few hours to get drunk. Whilst I was out drinking I met this character who said he was in the fraud business. He told he ran a team of thieves who stole credit cards off holiday makers and used them to buy goods, which they then sold on to locals who lived and worked in resorts around the Mediterranean islands. He was a generous guy who paid for my drinks all night, and every half hour or so would send me to the toilet with a bag of white powder to snort up my nose.

As the night wore on, this Costa Del Criminal told me funny story after funny story and I found him to be quite a decent bloke. He told me that he didn’t really feel any moral qualms about what he did (he never use the word ‘qualms’ of course, he was a crook) because he was only robbing off the banks, who were robbing bastards anyway (he had a good point there). He said that on the last night of using a card, he would take his team to a brothel and splash out on a night of filth and debauchery. This made sure the banks had to pay out to the family who had their card stolen. I mean, there’s no way any court in the land would believe that Valerie and Allan Stannage took their three kids on holiday to Alcudia and orchestrated the fraud themselves, before indulging in the pleasures of prostitution at ‘El Jefe’s’. He also left me with this little trade secret before I disappeared into drunken unconsciousness and he disappeared into the night; he told me a common way for fraudsters to get private information, was to employ people to get jobs in call centres taking personal data from customers; “Always get the name of the little fucker taking your details mate. Make sure they know that you know who it was who took that call. They get dozens of calls everyday and loads of info, so the ones that are risky they’re not gonna use.” I told you he was a nice bloke.

I know this posting has somewhat rambled on and in some way lost its thematic through-line. However, I hope I’ve managed to impart some wit and wisdom. As much as it’s important for valid identification and safeguarding measures in certain professions, there should also be some safety measures for us. There should also be the application of some common sense. Am I a real person or merely the sum of my documents? And who are these people collecting all my personal information? And why is it that despite me only giving my landline number to close friends and family members, a man named Keith with a strong Indian dialect can call me at home from a call centre in Mumbai to offer me free representation to claim damages back for a car accident I never had in the last three years – and call me by my first and last name!? We all to easily give too much of our personal data to random strangers every day, it’s no surprise that identity theft and fraud is so prolific. It’s only a matter of time before a defence team gets someone off because the prosecution are unable to locate a recent bank or utility bill and relevant picture ID from List B to confirm he was actually the person whom the killers DNA belonged to. Stranger things have happened!

Identity Thief


Update 29th January 2013: Criminal record checks system breaches human rights, court rules. Wow, sometimes common sense does prevail – I wonder if the judge read my blog?

17 thoughts on “If A Person Falls Over in a Forest of Paperwork and Nobody Sees The Appropriate Document, Does it Mean They Don’t Exist?

  1. Pingback: If A Person Falls Over in a Forest of Paperwork and Nobody Sees The Appropriate Document, Does it Mean They Don’t Exist? | Forty Two: Life and Other Important Things | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: If A Person Falls Over in a Forest of Paperwork and Nobody Sees The Appropriate Document, Does it Mean They Don’t Exist? « Serendipity

  3. I keep reblogging you because you make me laugh and because you look at the world kind of like I do, but you say it better, so here’s another award you will probably ignore and I can hardly blame you, but regardless, you got it. The post with all the usual blah blah information will be up shortly after midnight EST (US) at:


    and you are free to do or not do whatever you want with it. Since I started reblogging you, aside from the people who assume I AM you which is odd because you’re a dark skinned guy in England and I’m an aging very white lady in the boonies of New England … but despite that, they seem to think we are one (end diversion) you have developed a nice ittle following amongst my regulars. Since I am in the middle of Life and Other Projects, I’m deeply grateful that I can reblog you and thus not have to figure out what to say that day since you’ve already said it better than I would anyway.

    Congratulations and happy whatever you celebrate.

    • Hi Teepee (I’m replying by email so sorry I’m not using your name, don’t mean to be rude)

      I greatly appreciate you appreciating my take on life (not many do… or perhaps they’re just scared to accept it) and even greatlier appreciate you reblogging my blogs (I know greatlier isn’t a word, but ‘LOL’ never used to be an acronym either until someone forgot how to spell ‘hahaha’ so I could be making a pioneering literary step here). I am so glad I make you laugh. I also make my family laugh too, but I don’t trust their laughter as they are from the same gene pool and it could just be a natural thing that they can’t help. The fact that aesthetically and chronologically we are poles apart means that I do indeed have some wit about me. It’s just a shame I often spoil it in real life with my bi-polaristic (made that one up too) mood changes, meaning that I am invariably grumpy and inclined to be dejected and glum; but it’s not my fault, the injustices of the world and creative frustration make me that way, so I’ve stopped apologising for it. Instead I drink, dance and occasionally take drugs [whilst drinking and dancing – they kind of complement each other].

      I am going to accept your award, but I’m not going to make a speech. Instead I’m going to thank you, and I’m going to thank Steve Jobs (RIP) for making a computer that makes you want to use it. Keep on reblogging and for chrissakes (I believe that’s an actual word because I’ve seen it in actual books written by actual writers who get paid and have fans and an accountant) keep laughing 😉

      • If I stop laughing, you may assume I am dead. Even if I have not yet been buried. Unfortunately, nothing is really funny right now in the good ole’ US of A. There’s something about mass slaughter of children that just makes humor seem flat.

        I realized the other day why people read your blog on my site and think we are one in the same — after failing to notice the huge notice on top that says REBLOGGED in some contrasting color to make it more obvious — because I’ve always been considered more than a little daft. I seem to have gotten dafter with the passing years. My father was certifiable and I do not mean that in a good way. His failure to be certified and incarcerated accounts for many of the oddities of my so-called life and career.

        Be that as it may, you and I share a fondness for word play that is not as common as it ought to be. I probably am overly admiring of cleverness, even my own, but I generously include yours.

        People who think I am funny think YOU are funny, which I think is funny, and probably right now that’s the only thing I am finding funny. I feel a bit Old Testament today … rather like If I were God, time to wipe out this experiement gone wildly wrong and try again … maybe with dolphins.

        If you weren’t being such an asshole about it, I’d give you another award, but consider yourself awarded. I have three available (take your pick, if inclined): Blog of the Year 2012, Most Inspiring Blog, and Daisy (for being brave in the face of the vicissitudes **NOTE: I looked up the spelling** of Life). I probably have some others, but no one’s pointed them out to me. I had two people point out awards I missed in the past 24 hours and it’s making me nervous because I think I’ve given awards to anyone I actually read and am down to wondering if I can give awards to total strangers in the hope that it will insprie them to better writing.

        I’m running out of time. I’m in the middle of a project with a hot and heavy deadline and I’m having way too much fun writing to want to meet my committments … for which I’m not even getting paid. Shit. If you want an award, let me know. If you’re even willing to ACCEPT one, let me know. I’m pretty desperate. Don’t take that personally. I’ll keep following you anyhow because laughter is in grimly short supply.

        Just FYI and for no special reason, my Not White Husband thinks you are hilarious and hardly anything makes him laugh these days. He spent his life as a reporter covering horror stores (literally) and he’s lost that glint in his eye that I so used to love. Too much death, too much violence, too much insanity for one man to absorb, even with a nutsy wife to try to help rebalance the equation.

      • Hi Marilyn
        I’ll go for Blog of the Year 2012 please; I’m not brave enough for a Daisy, and it wouldn’t feel right because I had to look up what ‘vicissitudes’ meant. Most Inspiring Blog sounds nice, it just implies I’m more… benevolent than I really am, and I’m uncomfortable with the idea of having charitable status. That said, I’m genuinely happy and grateful to accept any awards with thanks. And I’m not being an asshole about it, I promise. You should continue admiring cleverness too, there’s just not enough of it about. Whereas there’s plenty of hot bodies and beautiful dumb people, and I think they get more than their fair share of admiration.

      • Whoop whoop! Thank you, I’m honoured… Is your part of the other side of the pond like San Diego or California or one of those hot parts, because I will come! The weather here really is that bad – today in particular. I could really do a New Year jaunt to some place where the weather’s hot, the pound is strong, the beer is cool, and they will ask me for ID to get a drink at a bar 😉

      • Uh, not quite exactly “hot.” We are in what are known as The Boonies — about an hour (assuming traffic cooperates) out of Boston in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, population 12,000 and a bit. Garry and I lived in Boston for a long time, but finally had too many dogs.

        This is the Blackstone Valley and what we have are waterfalls, rivers, streams, ponds, canals, big rocks and many many trees. Coyotes. Deer. Bobcats. Snow up to our hips in winter.

        Boston’s a good city. I lived in Jerusalem for almost 9 years. THAT was a hot city, literally and figuratively.

        You are always welcome, but hot we are not. My husband was a reporter for the Boston NBC-TV affiliate for 31 years, before that with ABC network. As far as I can tell, Garry met and interviewed everyone who was anyone in politics, crime, or Hollywood, including Mother Theresa and the Pope.

        I wrote manuals for obscure, complicated software, occasionally hardware until I became obsolete. It’s all on my blog. My life is an open book because I wrote a book that’s pretends to be a novel in 2007. Now I blog and argue with health insurance companies. My husband’s pretty interesting if you can get him to talk. He knows, secrets, dark and dangerous things, but his lips are sealed. Figuratively, NOT literally.

      • Waterfalls, rivers, canals and trees sounds very nice. And a population of 12000! Manchester is by no means big and that is the population of the city centre alone! There’s and Uxbridge in the UK, but all that has is a motorway running through it. It sounds like you and you husband have plenty of anecdotal and intellectual brain food to keep you guys interesting for a couple of lifetimes.

      • We are “twinned” with your Uxbridge. I’ve never been there, but we exchange stuff. Statues, park benches. There a BIG Uxbridge in Canada.

        It is really beautiful here. It still astonishes me, catches me off-guard how lovely it is … just driving home down my street is sometimes unimaginably lovely. We have one medium large (4 lanes) mostly limited access road nearby (they just finished it), but everything else is at least 20 miles away, which we call “around the corner.”

        Uxbridge was actually twice the size it is today 100 years ago before the mills closed. We were the hub of America’s textile industry. AFter the mills went down south, the town went back to sleep and hasn’t woken since.

        If it weren’t for the Internet, I would die from lack of anyone to talk to. The only couple we had as friends — he was with the foreign service, but we suspect he was CIA). They lived in all the hotspots: Afghanistan, Russia (long time there), China, Indonesia, Korea. They liked Indonesia best. But he’s dying of something … and she can’t walk without help any more and they aren’t real sociable now. I can’t blame them, but I so miss my friends. Everyone else in town thinks if they get to Boston twice in their life, they’ve been out there and done it all. Garry really HAS been everywhere and done everything. No matter what I say, it turns out he interviewed him/her, covered a story there, used to hang out and drink with him (drinking buddies like James Cagney and Robert Mitchum?).

        Which is how come I’ve met a president and a few movie stars. I even made friends with one (Patricia Neal) but ultimately, she wasn’t all that interesting. Weird. Hollywood people are a bit self-involved. TV people are more entertaining for some reason. Every once in a while, I get drug to a party and meet people are aren’t interested in me but are polite. Except for a few notable exceptions. Another story, another time. I’ve got work to do and how come it’s almost Christmas? What happened?

  4. Pingback: Blog of the Year – 2012 … Four Stars (Gee) AND a new recipient! « Serendipity

  5. Pingback: Blog of the Year – 2012 … And now we are five!! « Serendipity

  6. Pingback: Blog of the Year – 2012: Six Stars! AND The Liebster, Most Inspiring, Versitile and REALITY Awards too. Plus, My Favorite (You’ll see!) « Serendipity

  7. This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start
    my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really loved what you had
    to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

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