Criminal records checks
An overview of the legislation and necessary checks for recruiting in Scotland, the Presbytery of England, the International Presbytery and the Presbytery of Jerusalem.
Click on the headings below for more information.
Basic Disclosure checks
There is a group of people within congregations who do not require PVG Scheme Membership because they do not undertake regulated work with vulnerable groups. Often such roles are leadership roles, or roles which involve significant perceived levels of trust and responsibility and interaction with children and other vulnerable people. This provides a context where harm can occur.
It is the long experience of the Safeguarding Committee that posts such as organists, church officers/caretakers and café workers are perceived as having positions of leadership or trust.
The Safeguarding Committee Report to the General Assembly 2019 included the following deliverance:
Instruct Kirk Sessions to conduct Basic Disclosure checks on all individuals (regardless of their employment status) in their congregation in leadership roles and/or positions of trust, including but not limited to organists, church officers/caretakers and café workers, where their duties may involve contact with vulnerable groups as referred to in the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.
This deliverance is also applicable to posts in the Presbytery of England.
The Basic Disclosure guidance, the SG23 Basic Disclosure Certificate Undertaking form and the SG25 Basic Disclosure Record Form can be found on the Safe Recruitment section of The Church of Scotland Safeguarding Service website.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) England, Channel Islands and Wales
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is the England and Wales government agency that helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. Disclosure and Barring Checks shall be facilitated by Due Diligence Checking Ltd (DDC) as the umbrella body for the Church of Scotland.
All paid staff and volunteers working with children or vulnerable adults must have a DBS Certificate and have been cleared by the Safeguarding Service prior to undertaking regulated activities.
For more information, please see the DBS eligibility guidance available on the UK Government website.
Recruiting individuals who were born outside the UK or who have lived outside the UK
There are two issues to consider when recruiting individuals who were either born outside the UK, or who have lived outside the UK for six months or more. The first is confirming someone’s identity and the second relates to checking their criminal record. With regard to the identity of the individual, employers should take particular care during the recruitment process; ensuring they follow up references and making other relevant checks before making an appointment.
Employers can ask prospective employees and existing members of staff to provide a criminal record certificate, where available, from their government or an appropriate government/police agency in the country where they were born and or resided. Guidance on the process of applying for overseas criminal records checks is available on the UK Government website and also, on the website of the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). The advice from the Church of Scotland Safeguarding Service is that the onus is on the individual to provide details of their criminal conviction history from their home country or countries of previous residence prior to being appointed to a post.
The Church of Scotland requires overseas police check from the following applicants:
- Those who have spent six months or more (in a single period) in a non-UK country in the last ten years
- Those who were born and have lived overseas until adulthood
If this applies to the applicant, they must obtain an official statement confirming that they do not have any criminal record proceedings pending. The police check should cover the entire country, not just one state or province e.g., an FBI clearance is required for the USA and RCMP clearance for Canada.
Statements are only valid for application purposes for a period of six months from the date of issue. This does not apply if the applicant relocated to the UK before the six-month period expired and has not been a resident in the country concerned since.
On occasion an applicant might not be able to meet the requirements above.
Employers should also be aware that the categories of criminal convictions differ from country to country, and that the laws governing rehabilitation of offenders also vary significantly. In some instances, criminal records are expunged either automatically after a period of time or after a time linked to the length of the original sentence.
Laws relating to children and protected adults may also vary from country to country.
In these situations, rigorous checking that accounts for time spent abroad is necessary, for example:
- Proof of itinerary
- Suitable proof of residence of time spent abroad e.g., document from landlord
- Overseas employee or academic references/certificates, including UK departments and agencies based overseas (e.g., Foreign and Commonwealth Office missions, British Council or Non-Governmental Organisations, Bank/credit card statements, and
- Character references, quoting dates and places of meeting
Confirmation of dates can be cross-referenced with passport and work permits and by contacting employers/educational establishments.
If an applicant cannot meet the requirements above, or if further advice is required, please contact the Safeguarding Service before taking any further steps in the recruitment process.
The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007
The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) membership scheme is managed and delivered by Disclosure Scotland. When someone applies to join the PVG Scheme, Disclosure Scotland carries out criminal records checks and shares the results with the individual and the employing agency, which in this case would be The Church of Scotland Safeguarding Service.
The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 is essential in ensuring that those who are deemed unsuitable are prevented from working with children and/or protected adults.
It is imperative that anyone wishing to do regulated work with children and/or protected adults within the Church applies for scheme membership under the Church of Scotland. PVG Scheme membership for another organisation will not enable them to do regulated work within the Church context and a PVG Scheme update will be required.
This is also essential for ensuring that the Church is notified if anyone who is in post becomes unsuitable to work with children or protected adults.
For detailed guidance on whether or not someone requires PVG membership, please see our section on Determining Whether PVG Membership is Required.