Following the long list of celebrities in court yesterday, the conviction of Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins and the sexual allegations made against Sir Jimmy Savile, this has brought to light the question of whether celebrities should have CRB checks.
Ian Watkins used his rock star status to persuade female fans to perform sexual acts on their own children.
The Lostprophets singer, who has been given a 35 year sentence for 13 sexual offences, including attempting to rape a baby, was also permitted to visit sick children in hospital, in his role as ambassador for young people for Kidney Wales Foundation – he has since been stripped of the role.
This took place in 2008, despite that an ex-girlfriend of Watkins approached police that same year detailing his perverse ideas for sexual gratification relating to children.
During the making of the Lostprophets music video for A Town Called Hypocrisy, Ian Watkins was filmed with young children, adopting the theme of a children’s TV show - now harrowing and difficult to watch due to the crimes Watkins has committed.
Seven years on, celebrities are still able to work with children without any criminal background checks being made.
Debi Clark, Company Director of child model and talent agency Bizzykidz London said:
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where any attempt to make our children safer has to be welcomed, however, the celebrity / CRB issue is not as simple as it first appears."
As the law stands there is no official expiry date of CRB checks and it is the decision of either the employer, or organisation as to when they would like their checks renewed. With celebrities not contracted to a particular show this would cause confusion in all areas as they will be working for different companies from day to day and so would appear to be unworkable.
Clark continued: “In light of recent media events I would like to think that legislation is already being looked at to overcome this problem. In any event, our parents remain with their children at all times whilst on a shoot and would not be left alone with anyone else at any time.”
Jimmy Savile died in 2011 at the age of 84. Since then, he has been accused of hundreds of sex crimes, and police are still uncovering decades of abuse.
It is believed there could be up to 1,300 victims.
Savile told officers he had no need to chase girls because as a host of popular TV shows, "what you don't do is assault women, they assault you."
Programmes such as Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It are thought to have been engineered to allow him access to children and his charity work acted as a cover for his sexual intentions. The total number of hospitals now under investigation is 32.
Savile’s professional access to children over the course of his career is considered a major factor in his ability to target such a high number of vulnerable young people, and as a result of this, the NHS have reviewed the access they allow to celebrity visitors.
But has much changed since the height of Savile’s fame?
Since the introduction of the CRB Check in 2002, Ofsted, the official body for inspecting schools has the following policy:
“Ofsted and our inspection partners carry out all the required checks for staff who visit nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges as part of an inspection. This includes appropriate employment checks and an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) disclosure.”
Despite the involvement young people have with TV shows and those in the public eye, there is no requirement by law for presenters or actors to undergo a criminal check to ensure they are safe to work with children and companies such as Top Talent Agency, one of the UK's fastest growing talent agencies specialising in children feels it is already ensuring the safety of their young clients.
Top Talent Agency Director Warren Bacci had the following response:
"We place children in West End shows, television dramas, commercials and movies every day, and so of course child welfare and safety is our number one priority.
“We would only ever place children in licensed shows and productions, and so children that we place are simply never on their own with a celebrity, as there is always at least one chaperone present. So for this reason, I do not think it is necessary for every single celebrity to be CRB checked."
But with the likelihood that celebrities will at some point come into contact with children through publicity events, the media industry could adopt the same strict guidelines as Ofsted for their clients to further protect those at risk of exploitation.
Savile demonstrated how people in the limelight can abuse their position and similar stories in the news have exposed how other famous faces have behaved in the same way.
Despite Savile’s abuse spanning decades, no official investigation was carried out until after the TV presenter’s death, and it is interesting to point out that had CRB checks been around to screen Savile, he would have passed with flying colours.
However, failure to properly check the criminal history of Ian Huntley in 2001 had fatal consequences for his victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. He had previously been investigated for sexual offences towards children, and had CRB checks been established, the disclosure of this information to Soham Village College could have prevented his crime.
The security of a CRB check benefits all parties involved by making it more difficult for public figures like Savile and Watkins to use their fame to manipulate and abuse vulnerable people.
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