Three million CRB checks in a year
Three million background checks were carried out in England and Wales last year, figures show.
Councils, private firms and scout groups were among more than 2,000 organisations which ran criminal record checks on the equivalent of one in 20 of the population of 55.2 million.
Almost 60,000 checks were made by the Scout Association alone, making it one of the highest users, while the extent to which councils used the system varied widely.
Essex County Council made almost 22,000 checks while Wakefield Metropolitan Council made 877.
The campaign group Big Brother Watch, which released the data following a Freedom of Information Act request, said the figures were "a sad indictment of a country that has lost all sight of proportion and has substituted common sense for a piece of paper".
Nick Pickles, Big Brother Watch director, said: "For nearly three million people to be checked in just one year is remarkable... The checks have already been shown to wrongly brand innocent people as criminals and cost people their jobs for totally unrelated incidents that would not suggest they pose a risk. It's time to go back the drawing board and fundamentally reform the CRB system."
The Government has outlined plans to reform the system of criminal records checks, saying it was time to return to a more "common sense" approach.
A total of 2,981,958 checks were made in the 12 months to December 18 last year, the figures showed.
Private firms topped the list, with Atlantic Data making 180,995 checks and CRB-checking firm TMGCRB making 122,874. The Security Industry Authority, which manages the licensing of the private security industry, came third with 111,262 checks.
The Scout Association made 58,786 checks, ranking it fifth, while Essex County Council was listed 14th after making 21,908 checks. Others included the National Fostering Agency, which made 1,613 checks, and Manchester United Ltd, which made 693.