In a bid to prevent sex offenders working with children, the UK has developed a criminal-record check that will allow overseas organisations to screen potential employees for previous convictions.
According to UK police records, between 2008 and last year, 457 British nationals were arrested overseas for child sex offences.
Now, when hiring new staff, Cambodian organisations can ask candidates for an International Child Protection Certificate, which will show any prior convictions listed on the UK’s police database.
Previously, only organisations with direct links to the UK were able to conduct criminal-record checks on their British employees.
Tim Gerrish, the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre spokesman, said the certificate will “plug a gap” for local organisations.
“We’re trying to encourage organisations, as part of their recruitment policy, to insist that UK nationals seeking employment provide the certificate,” he said.
According to CEOP’s website, www.ceop.police.uk, the certification is based on one already required of anyone working with children in England and Wales.
Although they will be launched in Phnom Penh this morning, the certificates can be used worldwide.
It is hoped the initiative will act as a safeguard against paedophiles, who commonly travel overseas to live and work in countries with less robust child protection legislation.
British nationals and people who have previously worked in the UK may be asked for the certificate, and any organisation that works with children — including schools and orphanages — can ask for it.
Gerrish said the UK was the first country to offer such a thorough criminal history check, which lists all convictions, reprimands, cautions and final warnings known to UK police.
But Eric Meldrum, operations director at the anti-human trafficking and exploitation organisation Sisha, said it was unlikely the initiative would make much difference.
“It’ll give people piece of mind at legitimate institutions that actually request these checks before they let anybody in, but these institutions are generally in the minority,” Meldrum said.
“There are many, many so-called orphanages around Phnom Penh and Cambodia that don’t do any checks whatsoever and just let anyone through the doors.”