Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 12:35 UK

Vetting loopholes 'still need closing'

In response to the Soham murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), which will check employees' records, is due to come into force.

But, asks Wesley Stephenson of BBC Radio 4's the Report, will the new scheme close current loopholes and will it really protect children and vulnerable adults?

Hidden away in the country lanes of Surrey, not far from Lingfield racecourse, is the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy.

Drug dealer Emmanuel Ganpot
Emmanuel Ganpot was known to centre staff as Neo Masuro

The centre serves 200 students, whose epilepsy and other disabilities mean they cannot be taught in mainstream schools.

Its head of human resources, Helen Bidgway, says the nature of its work means the vetting of prospective employees is taken very seriously.

"Any members of staff who work for the organisation have to provide at least two forms of identification that verifies they are who they say they are," she said.

"We take up in writing and verbally verify two references on every individual, and they also go through an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check."

'Charismatic'

It was therefore something of a surprise for the centre to discover that it was, until last year, employing a fugitive US drug dealer called Emmanuel Ganpot.

Florida Assistant State Attorney Bill Burgess
Florida assistant state attorney Bill Burgess found Ganpot online

He had been on the run from the authorities in Florida since pleading guilty to trafficking a huge quantity of ecstasy and other narcotics, including the date-rape drug GHB, in 2001.

"The danger that he posed was that he was a very charismatic person," said William Burgess, an assistant state attorney from Florida who eventually tracked Ganpot down.

"He had a lot of resources, had access to a lot of drugs, and made it easy for people who didn't have those sorts of assets to gain access to drugs."

Ganpot fled to France, and from there travelled to the UK in 2003, where he changed his name and acquired a British passport under his new identity, Neo Masuro.

It was in this name that he secured his job as a support worker with the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy, and on which the charity vetted him - including the request of an enhanced criminal records check, which came back clean.

There is no evidence that anything untoward happened at the centre as a result of Ganpot's employment, but it was a risk that the charity had no idea it was taking.

"If we'd have known who he was and what his background was, we would never have employed him," said Helen Bidgway.

Bichard inqury

Emmanuel Ganpot avoided detection by exploiting two loopholes.

He changed his name, which meant that even the most rigorous of checks by his employers may not have identified his criminal past.

And because his crimes were committed abroad, the authorities in the UK would not have been aware of his record.

LISTEN TO THE REPORT
BBC Radio 4, Thursday 13 August at 2000 BST
Or download the podcast.

So will the new vetting system, which is being rolled out from October this year, succeed where the current one failed?

Once it is fully operational, the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will require an estimated 11.3 million people to register in order to work with children or vulnerable adults.

The Vetting and Barring Scheme, which supports the ISA, was set up in response to the Bichard Inquiry into the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman by Ian Huntley in Soham, Cambridgeshire in 2002.

A key issue in the case was that when Ian Huntley applied for his job as caretaker at Soham College he too used a different name - Ian Nixon.

The Bichard Inquiry also highlighted problems in checking the backgrounds of people who, like Ganpot, had lived abroad.

A Home Office report which followed up its findings last year said the issue was still "very challenging".

'Loopholes'

The government acknowledges that further progress is necessary.

"We are looking at overseas records, starting with Europe and beyond as we speak," said John O'Brien, programme director for the Vetting and Barring Scheme.

"But actually the first task is to get people registered with the scheme and make sure that they have nothing in their UK records that will cause us concern.

"As we reach agreements with overseas countries to include their records, we will include them."

He told Radio 4's The Report that it was up to employers to decide whether they asked new applicants to provide equivalent criminal records checks from other countries.

But Ganpot did not disclose that he had worked abroad when he applied for his job.

In terms of catching those who may have adopted a new identity, Mr O'Brien insisted the Criminal Records Board has "really robust" procedures in place to check that the ID that it has been given is the ID of the individual who has made the application.

And he again stressed that employers shared responsibility to check the ID provided by a prospective employee.

But Helen Bidgwaym from the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy, said there was nothing more they could have done to avoid being deceived:

"We are confident our vetting process is as full-proof as it can be, but we are reliant on the other agencies to close any loopholes there may be in their systems."

Social networking

Florida assistant state attorney William Burgess eventually caught up with Ganpot as a result of dogged policing.

He spotted that several of Ganpot's old associates had been befriending a man named Neo on social networking websites and Neo's face fitted that of the wanted man.

"I took that photo and laid it over a transparency of his booking photo, and saw the eye placement and other features matched," he said.

"Then we got the account records from MySpace and it had a postal code traced back to Oxted in the UK. So I was pretty sure at that point I knew where he was."

Now back in the United States, Ganpot awaits sentencing.

However, until the remaining loopholes are closed, it is not clear that the new system will catch the Ganpots of the future.

The Report is on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 13 August at 2000 BST. You can also listen via the BBC iPlayer after broadcast or download the podcast.



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SEE ALSO
Q & A: Vetting and Barring Scheme
11 Sep 09 |  Education
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