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.