In order to be let loose on the Brownies of Camden, I've had to apply for a CRB check. No, I never thought I'd see the day either. The things we do for love. So far it has turned out to be relatively painless - although, as far as I can see, not particularly criminal-proof. I am also not inspired with confidence by the experience of a colleague who in response to his application was sent the details of someone with the same first name and surname, but different middle name, date of birth and address, and a record as long as his arm.
Nonetheless, I have found one cause for complaint in the guidance notes:
[Section C, Item 20, 'Surname at birth (if different)']
'If you have entered "Mrs" or "Ms" in Section A, Item 1 [i.e. 'title', in main name and address section], please enter your surname at birth, even if it is the same as provided at Section A, Item 2 [i.e. 'surname', in main name and address section]
The reasoning is presumably that people with the title Mrs or Ms are likely to have at some point been married, and most women, unnaccountably, still change their name upon marrying. So these are people who are likely to have changed their name at some point in their life. But the form allows for that by the wording 'name at birth (if different)'; there is also a section that asks for any other names you might have had over the course of your life. You'd think it was all covered. Secondly, there are lots of other people who might have changed their names, for all sorts of reasons, but they're not required to do this.
I can only conclude that the rationale is this: married women are not the only people who might have changed their name, but they are they only ones who are likely to have forgotten that they were once called something different and thus need to be required to write it down anyway.
There may be another reason, to do with the technicalities of the recording of a person changing their name on marriage, but in that case, why not say 'if you are a woman who is or has been married'? Or better still, why not just ask everyone for their 'surname at birth' and scrap the 'if different'. Then they would get the information they wanted about everyone without making married women a special case.
Making it dependent on the title they've entered in Section 1 is hardly foolproof anyway; these titles don't carry strict definitions. Married or not, I was always Ms (when someone demanded a title to fill in their box), whereas I know a divorced woman who calls herself Miss.
I know it's trivial, but these little things are symptomatic of an attitude that still needs challenging.
As it does say 'if different' and I have not entered either 'Mrs' or 'Ms' in Section A, Item 1, I have rather cheekily left Section C, Item 20 blank. I shall stick to the letter of the law, if they want to write the law so badly.