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19 April 2017 | Comment | Article by Alan Collins

DBS checks are not failsafe

A clean DBS check or some other clean bill of health check is not a green light to say that someone is safe to work with children. It is a useful tool in safeguarding but it is no more than that.

The recent conviction of Paul Cherrett, a former scout leader has been jailed for child abuse, highlights the point.

Paul Cherrett, from Bournemouth, admitted 18 charges including indecent assaults and possessing indecent photos. He was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment.

The offences, against nine boys between 1975 and 2016, took place at Scout camps and other locations.

The judge at Bournemouth Crown Court said Cherrett’s crimes would live with his victims forever.

The court heard Cherrett’s offending was finally discovered when a CCTV camera was triggered by a motion sensor in the tuck shop at Butchers Coppice Scout Camp in Bournemouth. The camera sent alerts including still images to a senior scout leader’s mobile phone.

The court heard boys were sexually abused and forced to stand naked at Scout locations in the Bournemouth area and at camps abroad.

The Scout Association said Cherrett had always held a “full and valid” Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

At Hugh James, where we have acted for survivors and victims of sex abuse both in the UK and overseas, have seen countless cases where the abusers have had no previous criminal record, yet were clearly unsuitable to work with children. The signs that they pose a risk are often ignored, and this is where education and training is so important. All those who work with children even indirectly should have on-going monitoring, education and training.

Alan Collins, a partner at Hugh James said:

“all too often those with safeguarding responsibilities have allowed their guard to slip, and abuse has happened on their watch, only for say the school cleaner applying common sense to phone the police. There is an argument that mandatory reporting is necessary and it may come to that if monitoring and education is not as effective as it ought to be. A DBS check is just that. It is no substitute for pro-active steps”.

Author bio

Alan Collins


Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

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