OXFORDSHIRE’s ambulance service is refusing to admit if any other staff have secret criminal pasts after it emerged one of its senior officers was a convicted murderer.
The Oxford Mail revealed Robert King – who worked his way up through the ranks of South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) to become a paramedic and operations manager after his release from jail for murdering a homosexual – kept his conviction secret.
He had been originally employed by the Two Shires service before it merged with other ambulance organisations to form South Central Ambulance Service in 2006.
While new employees were vetted under CRB checks because they come into contact with members of the public, no retrospective check of King’s past was made.
It only emerged when Thames Valley Police did a proper check into King following his conviction in April for drink-driving and crashing his SCAS car.
SCAS employs 2,250 people – which includes around 450 paramedics, 390 emergency medical technicians and 320 emergency care assistants – but refused to answer questions about how many other staff had not been vetted.
It said it would only release the figures if a Freedom of Information request – which gives it 20 working days before it has to respond – was submitted.
CRB checks were introduced to protect vulnerable people and children from contact with criminals, yet SCAS – which only admitted there had been no check into King when he was struck off by the Health and Care Professions Council despite being asked by the Oxford Mail the previous day – issued a statement claiming it was retrospectively checking employees. It would also not say if any unchecked staff were still being allowed contact with the public.
Children’s safety expert Marilyn Hawes, of the Enough Abuse group, said: “Not to reply is outrageous. CRB checks are never the Bible, but they’re there for a reason.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “Just because somebody has a criminal record, it does not mean they cannot do a proper job – otherwise no criminal would ever be rehabilitated.”
But he added: “I don’t for the life of me see why the ambulance trust can’t come clean.
“At the end of the day, they are a public body and the public has a right to know.”
A SCAS spokesman said: “Patient care and safety remains our highest priority and since the introduction of CRB checks in 2002, all new appointments to SCAS are unable to commence patient facing duties until they have been CRB checked.
“Retrospective checks to-date have not been a legal requirement.
“We have been endeavouring to get everyone checked in the remainder of this year.”
QUESTIONS we put which have remained unanswered by SCAS:
- How many have been given CRB checks and when?
- How many have completed CRB checks?
- Were staff who were employed prior to 2005/6 required to complete CRB checks?
- When were these handed out to staff who have been in employment prior to 2005/6?
- How many staff are having to have retrospective CRB checks?
- Why was this issue not addressed at the time of merger?
- How many staff have come back with convictions on CRB checks?
- Are frontline staff who are waiting for CRB clearance being stood down from contact with the public until their clearance comes through?
- Does SCAS want to apologise to the public for potentially placing them in danger with staff with criminal convictions being able to deal with the young and vulnerable?