Vetting – Frequently Asked Questions
What is the vetting policy within Thames Valley Police?
Thames Valley Police follow the 2017 Vetting Code of Practice and corresponding Approved Professional Practice (APP), which can be found on the College of Policing website. As part of the recruiting process for employment, internal appointment, partnership working, contractual work or volunteering, Thames Valley Police completes the vetting process that includes criminal records checks, national security checks and a number of other checks around an applicant’s life style, associations, and finances.
The extent to which a vetting review is undertaken depends upon the role for which an individual is being considered. Roles have been assessed and the vetting level required is influenced by the location, nature of the work, and extent to which access is required to sensitive information or computer systems.
This policy is applied to protect employed staff and non-police personnel who occupy vulnerable posts within the force, to provide Thames Valley Police with a degree of assurance as to an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness, protect the public and provide legitimacy for Thames Valley Police’s personnel.
Why is a vetting system necessary?
Investigations at national and international level have provided evidence that criminals actively target police staff or others connected with the service who could be used to assist them in continuing their criminal activities. Members of the press and employees of private detective agencies also target police staff to obtain confidential information. Another security risk is the potential for criminals or their associates to infiltrate the work force. Recently there has been a national research focus on individuals exploiting their position and association within the police service to abuse their position for sexual gain, which has provided a further level of focus within the vetting process.
In addition, the Police Service is required to sponsor National Security Vetting Checks for those in certain sensitive posts, to counter threats which may stem from foreign intelligence services and terrorist groups, which could potentially compromise national security.
Who is affected?
The vetting requirement applies to employed staff, volunteers and other non-police personnel who are engaged in support of Thames Valley Police or who work in associated partnerships. The staff categories include:
- Police Officers,
- Police Staff,
- Police Community Support Officers,
- Temporary or Agency Staff,
- Special Constables,
- Partnership Staff,
The extent to which vetting is undertaken is balanced against the level of access required to police premises, sensitive information and computer systems.
The aim is to ensure that vetting enquiries are carried out only as far as necessary to achieve the required safeguards within the provisions of Human Rights and Data Protection legislation.
How does the vetting system work?
At the point of interview, or at the initiation of your contract, you will be asked to complete a form confirming your identity and place of residence and copies of original documents will be taken. You will also be required to sign a confidentiality declaration.
Once you have been offered a position/contract, you will be sent log in details to your online police vetting form which should be completed within 14 days. You should ensure you read the e-mail instructions carefully as you may be required to submit a further form, providing your financial information, directly to the Central Vetting Unit.
For roles requiring a level of national security vetting, you will be requested to complete a further online vetting form via the United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV) service, for which Thames Valley Police will be your sponsor.
Details are checked against criminal and national security records, other public records such as the electoral role and, in some cases, credit reference agencies and open source research. Enquiries are also made with other agencies as required.
The results are assessed taking account of the information we obtain which include any references. Suitability is considered against the role, access required to premises, information and systems, and the degree of supervision.
Why do I have to provide details of my identity?
Identity checks are an essential part of the vetting process, including national security clearance checks, and for this reason you will be asked to present original documents such as passport or birth certificate to your manager or recruiting officer. These will be examined and copies taken for retention by the Central Vetting Unit.
Can checks be carried out if I have not been resident in the United Kingdom?
It can be difficult to complete thorough checks on individuals who have not been resident in the United Kingdom for the previous three years. To be able to meet the national standards for a level of police vetting clearance, applicants must have a meaningful checkable history for the vetting process.
If you have not held continuous residency within the UK over the last 3 years, please notify your recruitment contact as soon as possible and they will be able to provide you with an Applicant Residency Self-Assessment document to assist in determining whether exceptions can be made if you can provide additional documentation.
Do I have to complete the procedure?
Should you decide, for whatever reason, that you are unable to complete any particular sections of the questionnaires, or do not wish to do so, you should discuss the matter with your line manager, the Thames Valley Police recruitment staff or Central Vetting Unit staff. This should be done before submitting forms.
If there are a number of your associates (i.e. family, co-residents, partner, partners’ parents etc.) who do not consent to you providing their data, it could result in vetting clearance not being granted, as sufficient checks will not be able to be carried out in line with the vetting level requirement.
We understand that you may have family members who you no longer associate with, and therefore are unable to provide their full details. In such circumstances, please provide as much information as possible, as well as an explanation as to why you are unable to provide more. Equally, we understand that family members may not be able to provide the full details we are requesting for various reasons. Whilst we expect that applicants make every effort to obtain as much of the requested information as possible, we can be sympathetic to situations that arise that may mean you do not have the full information. Again, please provide an explanation on your vetting form to notify us of the reasons.
In some cases it may be necessary for you to be interviewed by the Central Vetting Unit prior to any decision as to vetting clearance. The objective of the interview is to obtain sufficient information to allow vetting clearance and to discuss any difficulties which may arise.
The vetting requirements are a legislative requirement under the 2017 Vetting Code of Practice. It must be remembered that persons not vetted under this procedure will be denied unrestricted access to force premises, information or systems. For contractors this could affect the ability to meet their obligations and such risk remains with the contractor; no liability is assumed by the force.
Can I work within the police service if I have criminal convictions or cautions?
It depends upon the nature of the conviction or caution, and the role to be undertaken. In summary, the more access required to sensitive information or systems, and whether you are regularly part of the evidential chain, the more stringent the vetting requirement.
In general terms, if you require access to sensitive information or systems to fulfil your role then it is unlikely that vetting clearance will be given if you have convictions or cautions for serious offences involving dishonesty, drugs, violence or sexual offences.
These issues are considered against other factors including involvement with the police (other than as a victim or witness), including domestic related incidents or other criminal contact or associations.
If you need further advice, please contact the Central Vetting Unit.
What is meant by the term ‘criminal association’?
Criminal association relates to the association with persons who may or may not have a criminal record, be engaged in criminal activities, have come into adverse police contact at any time, or those who associate with such persons.
It is possible that some individuals belong to clubs, associations and organisations where fellow members fall into the above-mentioned category. If this information is known to the applicant it should be included. In addition, if you have friends or relatives who fall into this category, their details must also be included.
Under no circumstances should you, or anyone at your request, carry out checks to ascertain whether or not any of your associates have criminal convictions, or are recorded as being actively engaged in crime. This would be considered as a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act.
Why have I been asked to indicate any medical condition?
For some more sensitive roles, you will be asked to identify whether your suitability could be affected by a medical or psychological issue. In these circumstances the matter will be referred to the Occupational Health Unit for assessment.
The details of any condition will not be disclosed to the Central Vetting Unit or any other person by the Occupational Health Unit, without your consent. However, if the Occupational Health Unit is of the opinion that it would not be appropriate for you to be employed or continue to serve in a particular post, the Central Vetting Unit will be notified and you will be informed.
It should be understood that such decisions are exceptional and it will only be in the most serious cases that clearance will be refused.
What is the purpose of financial enquiries?
Financial checks are completed when applicable to the role. Their purpose is to assess whether you have direct or indirect access to sufficient funds to minimise the risk of vulnerability to financial inducement.
It is in this context that details of an individual’s and partner’s finances are required. However, if you are not aware of the extent of your partner’s finances and your partner will not disclose this information to you, you must indicate this in the questionnaire and include as much information as possible.
Individuals become vulnerable when they have unmanageable debts or when there are other relevant factors which have not been disclosed. When the information has been provided ‘in confidence’ the risk of compromise is significantly reduced.
There is no need to worry about mortgage and credit commitments that are in line with your income, providing you are normally able to manage the repayments. Debts only become a problem where they are substantial, unable to be serviced under the initial agreement, caused by compulsive behaviour or where an individual fails to take remedial action. This provides an indication of financial unreliability, poor financial judgement and irresponsibility.
What if I keep quiet about something in my past and hope no-one finds out?
Knowingly providing false information or concealing information on a vetting form or at any subsequent requests or interview could be regarded as evidence of unreliability and/or dishonesty, raising concerns over your integrity. Your clearance could be refused because of this, even though what you were seeking to conceal would not itself have caused a problem. Furthermore, your clearance could be removed at a later date if the facts subsequently come to light.
Remember – it is only in the most serious cases that consideration will be given to refusing vetting clearance. The main objective of the vetting procedure is to ensure that members of staff cannot be compromised because they have ‘secrets’ they do not wish to be disclosed.
Any significant changes in personal circumstances such as permanent partner, new residents at your home, change of address, arrests, cautions or convictions, or association with criminals should be notified to the Central Vetting Unit in a timely manner. This includes any time after the submission of your vetting form, as well as after any vetting clearance has been granted, until you leave the organisation.
How long does the vetting procedure take?
The Central Vetting Unit has a high volume of workloads and have arranged service level agreements with their customers as to when a file will be picked up for processing.
Once a vetting file has been started, provided the vetting forms have been completed fully and accurately, vetting checks may be completed within a few days. However, where checks have to be completed in other police force areas, agencies or in other countries, there can be a delay of several weeks or months.
If you are joining Thames Valley Police on a course intake, your vetting file will be processed as close to your notice period deadline as possible to meet the allocated start date. This is to ensure that vetting is carried out at the latest possible point, as circumstances can change overnight.
How long will my vetting last?
Depending upon the level of vetting and sensitivity of role, your vetting clearance will last for between three and ten years. For some roles an annual review will be undertaken and this will involve you and your line manager completing a short assessment form for return to the Central Vetting Unit.
If vetting clearance is refused can I appeal?
Vetting will not commence until the results of the recruitment interview process is known. If vetting clearance is refused, you will be advised by the recruitment team.
Once you have been advised, you can take the following action:
- External applicants – may appeal the vetting decision with an offer to provide any additional information they wish to be considered by an independent manager,
- Internal applicants – may appeal the vetting decision and this will be reviewed in stages finishing with the Deputy Chief Constable.
The appeals/review process is such that applicants are offered an opportunity to provide any additional information they wish to be considered during an independent review with a Senior Vetting Advisor. In response to this request, the applicant will be advised of the reasons (where data protection allows) during the first stage appeals process. This is done whilst reviewing the original decision and the applicant will subsequently be advised as to whether there are any further appeals stage available. On occasion the specific reasons for the refusal may not be given, this is usually in the case where there is a need to protect the confidentiality of others and the security of Thames Valley Police.
Appeals or reviews should be requested within 28 days of the decision being made.
In cases relating to national security checks, a separate appeal process is available. Information will be supplied by the Central Vetting Unit upon request.
What safeguards are there?
Information provided during the vetting process will be processed in strict confidence and will only be used for security purposes. Completed vetting submissions will be retained in files, securely stored electronically within the Central Vetting Unit. The information will not be disclosed to any agency outside of the police community unless there is a legal obligation that must be followed.