Skip to main content

Collective calls for a full review of MoJ vetting processes

The Criminal Justice Alliance has been working in collaboration with ClinksThe National Women’s Justice Coalition and Revolving Doorsto compile a joint briefing paper of anecdotal and experiential evidence to demonstrate the impact vetting delays and denied clearances are having on both individuals and organisations, as well as the issues and risks with the vetting process itself.

The extensive and ongoing delays to MoJ vetting processes and a lack of clarity and transparency about decision-making in relation to security clearances have been issues of significant concern to us and our members for a long time. In our 2019 report, Change from within we put forth a recommendation for HMPPS to urgently review, update, and improve vetting procedures and guidance.

This new summary collates examples, case studies and expert insight to demonstrate the wide-ranging impact that delays in MoJ vetting and denied clearance of staff and volunteers are specifically having on organisations working with women in contact with the criminal justice system. The organisations we have consulted with describe the vetting process as ‘difficult, disappointing and distressing’, as well as ‘tedious, dated and repetitive.’ As one organisation said:

“Although there is an intent to support those with lived experience to work within the criminal justice sector, from experience this feels impossible in practice. By the time any sort of formal decision is made applicants either withdraw because they cannot financially cope with the uncertainty of the job offer, their current employer offers them a better role to stay, they accept an offer elsewhere, or the distress of the process as a whole is simply too much to go through.”

Through collaboration and consultation with multiple criminal justice specialist organisations, this briefing also makes recommendations for next steps and solutions to improve vetting processes as a matter of urgency.

These recommendations include:

  • Consultation with people with lived experience of the CJS and specialist organisations providing services to carry out a full review of vetting processes.
  • Greater clarity for organisations and individuals on vetting criteria and requirements, including detail on vetting decision-making and appeals and guidance on how long vetting processes should take.
  • Fast track routes for vetting core staff responsible for delivering frontline services against all MoJ contracts – such as the current Commissioned Rehabilitative Services
  • The introduction of a centralised system to remove the requirement for repetitive vetting applications.
  • A systematic review of the requirement to renew vetting applications every 12 months.
  • A systematic review of decision-making protocols that can lead to denied clearances based on associations, being held on remand or for juvenile cautions.
  • The introduction of contract dependencies to all MoJ contracts stipulating that organisations should only be expected to deliver services and/or meet contractual obligations once vetting processes are completed.
  • The introduction of a dispensation system to enable staff to begin working in prisons and with clients while waiting for their vetting to come through.

Collectively, we hope this briefing paper will comprehensively document the issues and obstacles inherent in current vetting processes and make a compelling case for a full re-think and review of vetting procedures by the Ministry of Justice.