Archdiocese to screen all priests and lay staff

 The archdiocese of Birmingham announced this week that they are introducing compulsory employment, police and health checks on everyone working for them. Church spokesman Peter Jennings said that all 497 priests working within the archdiocese had already voluntarily given copies of their police records to the archdiocesan authorities and all of them had been clear of sexual offences. A further 60 deacons and at least 450 lay workers will also be checked, and all new staff will automatically be screened before starting work. The new policy could extend to cleaners and church wardens at the discretion of parish priests. Previously the archdiocese did not have the right to ask police authorities to hand over their records concerning a priest, deacon or other church worker. Archbishop Nichols proposed signing up with the Criminal Records Bureau. The new wing of the Home Office which is due to be launched in the summer, has greatly widened the scope of all employment checks on church workers. Mr Jennings said: "It is a huge move forward, which should allay the fears of Catholics and parishioners who might be concerned by the past problems within the church."

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