FOR five years he’d been the proud proprietor of Le Petit Cafe – dishing up burgers, wraps and coffees to passing trade.
His customers can be anyone from a plumber to a salesman and just occasionally a family stop for a bite.
Yet caterer Paul St Clair is the latest to have to undergo criminal checks usually required for those working with children and vulnerable adults.
Mr St Clair, 50, who trades from a layby off a busy road in East Yorkshire, has just completed his second Criminal Records Bureau check in a year, a situation a local MP described yesterday as “just the most recent example of the growing misuse of these checks.”
The pressure group Liberty said councils did not have the power to demand checks on street traders “in such a random way.”
The former lorry driver who racked up nearly 30 years driving all over Europe said he was stunned when first told last July he’d have to have the check.
The catering van is less than a mile from Bishop Burton College, but Mr St Clair said there was no passing trade from children.
Each CRB check has cost him just under £50, including £15 for an identification badge, a situation which Mr St Clair said would not be so bad if there was a level playing field.
He said: “I don’t mind provided everyone else has to do it. Sweetshop owners don’t need one and yet they are the ones who deal with children.
“You can stand in the market at Beverley and do exactly what I do but you don’t need to meet the same stringent checks.
“If you have a daily licence you don’t need one. It just shows there’s no level across the board – it’s all to pot.
“If we get a child, which is rarely, they are usually in the arms of their mum or dad.
“It goes on - if you go into McDonald’s and a 16-year-old serves you, do you need one?”
He added: “We’ve had police who pulled up here and health and hygiene people who just can’t believe it – it’s bureaucracy gone mad.”
“I think it is just basically another money-making scheme to justify people’s jobs.”
East Riding Council said it had consulted on changes to its Street Trading Policy, which was implemented last July, and there had been no objections.
However Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart said he was concerned about the proliferation of Criminal Records Bureau checks.
Describing East Riding Council’s request as just the latest example of the “growing misuse” of the checks, he said: “It is troubling that schemes intended to improve our ability to protect children have led to our culture evolving into one of suspicion and mistrust. These initiatives victimise individuals who are unlawfully required to perform a CRB check and put a strain on the voluntary sector”
Mr Stuart said he supported Home Secretary Theresa May’s commitment to scale back the vetting and barring scheme introduced by the former Labour government.
He said: “The needless requests for checks made by some employers and organisations of individuals who fall outside the CRB code of practice, contribute to the growing “guilt until proven innocent” culture.”
Anna Fairclough, legal officer at Liberty said: “This current vetting frenzy is not going to make the vulnerable any safer.
“Councils have no power to demand checks on street traders or to select professions in such a random way. “Our kids would be better protected by a rational scheme that identifies professional relationships of real trust and greater risk.
“A big computer was never a substitute for common sense.”
In a statement East Riding Council said 27 street traders in the East Riding, including six mobile ice cream vans, had submitted applications with basic CRBs and received new consents.
It added: “The council is reducing burdens on businesses where it can, but street traders operate from a variety of locations, some in isolated areas, others in locations close to schools and colleges, and others trade as mobile ice creams vans visiting places where people live.
“An annual fee of £26 is a small price to pay for public confidence in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
“We consulted on the introduction of the basic CRB check. No adverse comments were made. The application process can be completed in under two weeks and is not burdensome on individuals.”
The council said market traders did not need a Street Trading consent, as markets and fairs were exempt under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.