Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Twenty-Third Report


S.I. 2003/1418: memorandum from the Home Office

Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Amendment No. 4) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/1418)

1. The purpose of this memorandum is to explain why the fees charged for the provision of criminal record certificates and enhanced criminal record certificates are being increased by the above Order.

2. Provision of criminal record certificates and enhanced criminal record certificates is undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau which is an executive agency of the Home Office. The fees for provision of both types of certificate were set at £12 when the relevant provisions (sections 113 to 116) of Part 5 of the Police Act 1997 were brought into force (see regulation 4 of the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002/233)). Volunteers (as defined in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002) do not pay any fee for a certificate.

3. The Criminal Records Bureau had a difficult, and well publicised, first 7 months of operations. There has been a steady improvement in performance since last autumn. Since October, the average number of certificates issued each week is 40,000 compared with 24,500 a week last August. Turnaround times have reduced from over 8 weeks to under 5 and the number of aged applications over 6 weeks old (and not awaiting further information from the applicant) has been reduced from a peak of 76,000 to under 10,000.

4. For 2003/04 the Criminal Record Bureau's business plan sets out challenging but realistic service standards which take into account the experience of the first year of operating. The CRB will now seek to process 90% of applications for a Standard Disclosure within 2 weeks and 90% of applications for an Enhanced Disclosure within 4 weeks. Nonetheless the Criminal Records Bureau is not likely to be in a position to issue criminal conviction certificates for some time and accordingly there are no plans to bring section 112 of the Police Act 1997 into force at present.

5. As a result of the service improvements in recent months the Criminal Records Bureau is able to increase its capacity to 60,000 certificates a week from the autumn. Despite this increase in capacity, the deferment of the introduction of criminal conviction certificates inevitably means that the volume of certificates is less than originally forecast. As a result of this and other factors, the unit cost of a certificate is greater than the current £12 fee. It was made it clear when the £12 fee was announced (Official Report 2 April 2002 col. 69W) that it remains the Government's intention that the Criminal Records Bureau would be self-financing in the medium term. That remains its objective. However, in the short term, the costs of the Criminal Records Bureau will continue to be met by a combination of fee receipts and contributions from the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills. As the Government moves towards full cost recovery it is necessary to increase the Disclosure fees. From 1 July 2003 the fee for a criminal record certificate will be £24 and that for an enhanced criminal record certificate will be £29. Volunteers will continue to receive free certificates. The differential pricing reflects the increased costs associated with processing applications for enhanced criminal record certificates where checks have to be made with local police forces to ascertain whether any relevant information exists concerning the applicant or relating to the application.

5th June 2003

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