Damian Green’s family meets Merlin

I’ve just been scanning the latest news on the disgraceful arrest of Damian Green, and a random thought occurred to me, triggered by this bit in the Independent:

His wife, Alicia, told friends how nine officers had looked “sheepish” as they had rifled through personal papers at the couple’s home in west London, even examining letters she and her husband had exchanged as students, and leaving with three folders of bank statements.

She had feared her husband had been in an accident when the officers asked if there were children in the house before starting the search. Her teenage daughter had burst into tears when she had come home from school to see their home filled with police.

There’s a reason for the officers’ question: the Metropolitan Police operate a database called ‘Merlin’ which records details of all children ‘coming to notice’ for any reason. As we’ve said on our old database masterclass blog, and at greater length on page 73 of the FIPR report to the Information Commissioner, one of the criteria for entering a child on Merlin is their being ‘present when police are searching premises’.

This paragraph from the FIPR report explains a bit more about Merlin:

The MERLIN system is accessible to all Metropolitan Police officers and civilian staff (once they have completed training to use it) and police in any London borough can check the entries for other boroughs. In almost all circumstances, a MERLIN notification will be faxed to the local social services department. If education or health services have signed up to an information-sharing agreement with the Metropolitan Police Services, they may also receive MERLIN information.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that Damian Green’s daughter arrived home before the police had finished.

Update: I’ve been checking whether there have been any changes to the Merlin system since the last time I looked at it in 2006. Things have moved on a bit: it’s no longer enough to complete a ‘coming to notice’ notification because it has all been tied into the ‘Every Child Matters’ framework.

A police officer must now also complete a ‘pre-assessment checklist’ or PAC when they encounter a child in the course of searching premises. This is to check whether the child is achieving the Every Child Matters five outcomes, and so the officer should assess whether the child is healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic wellbeing.

You can see for yourself here.* So did the police carry out a PAC on Damian Green’s 15yo daughter? If not, why not when it’s compulsory?

*Another update: Just been told that the link won’t work properly, and WordPress won’t let me paste the full URL. Either click on the link above and then delete ‘archrights.wordpress.com/’ when it says ‘not found’, or got to Google, put in Merlin +PAC and it should come up as the first choice.

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10 Responses to Damian Green’s family meets Merlin

  1. Pete says:

    One hopes, too, that his DNA has been collected and will be placed on the national database until the end of time. And, of course, that his arrest will show up on all future enhanced criminal record checks. So, if he ever becomes a minister, he mustn’t be allowed into any infant schools for those photo-ops with charming six-year-old girls. And he’ll have to apply for a special visa to visit the US; they don’t like people who have been arrested.

    Of course all these things are unjust and oppressive, like so many of this government’s innovations. But all the time such things have been happening to millions of others, the opposition has mostly sat silent, believing that if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear. Perhaps they will now realise that civil liberties are not just a lot of airy-fairy, woolly-liberal nonsenses that only criminals whinge for.

  2. [...] Why is it so important to the symbolism of the affair? Because her appearance allows the police to enter her name on the Merlin database which requires them to take the details of children who come to their attention when a premises is [...]

  3. [...] Why is it so important to the symbolism of the affair? Because her appearance allows the police to enter her name on the Merlin database which requires them to take the details of children who come to their attention when a premises is [...]

  4. [...] been arrested. I also wonder if his daughter is now on the Met Merlin database (interesting story here). The Tories just seem to roll over when it comes to allowing the police state we’re turning into, [...]

  5. Charlie says:

    Does ARCH have a copy of the actual CAF questionaire? The Daily Mail covered the topic today:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1092513/Has-child-CAFed–How-Government-plans-record-intimate-information-child-Britain.html

    and described the CAF as an ‘eight-page, 60-section questionnaire.’

  6. archrights says:

    The form and various relevant documents are downloadable here: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/deliveringservices/caf/

    The Practitioner’s Guide is useful and if you scroll down to the appendix, it suggests the areas that the practitioner should explore.

    The CAF is seen as central to the business of arranging ‘extra’ service for children: ie any service over and above standard education and healthcare provision. The govt estimates that around 50% of children will need such services at some point.

    Originally it was intended that CAFs would be stored locally, but the govt instead decided to create a single, national database – this old blog post explains: http://archrights.wordpress.com/2007/07/26/and-you-thought-contactpoint-was-bad/

    Hope that’s all helpful

  7. Charlie says:

    Thanks. That’s really helpful. I am posting from a jurisdiction outside England that is planning to introduce ECM

    I will be in touch with some information later in the week.

    Best regards.

  8. Diane Allmark says:

    I also read the article on CAF in the Mail on Sunday and as an Early Years Practitioner am annoyed at the way it has been portrayed by this journalist.
    A CAF will not be carried out on all children. It will only be done if there is cause for concern. It can also only be done with the parents consent (or the child’s if they are 12 years or older). I don’t know where the ‘eyewateringly intimate questions’ are; there is nothing ‘creepy’ about the form and we certainly won’t be ‘interrogating children’. Its aim is to provide support to the child and family and to do it in a coordinated way. I am attending another full days training on the CAF tomorrow (my 2nd) as we as practitioners are keen to provide a better quality of life for the children in our care. It is a shame that this is not recognised.

  9. lizzie says:

    Diane…maybe you should read more of the government’s own background guides re how to use CAF and what questions can/should be asked. You’ll find that there;s almost nothing about a child or its family that is off-limits.

  10. hope says:

    THis can happen to Damien under Labour, yet a Conservative councillor can also lose their grandchildren to forced adoption under their own Conservative led LA.

    Could it be that they caused to much of a upset about bio-metric fingerprinting of children and data bases?

    If they dare risk going to the media the LA will label them mad.

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