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In a case which highlighted the difficult balance to be struck between child protection and the rights of the individual, a police force has been criticised by the High Court for its ‘blinkered’ treatment of a teacher who was acquitted of sexually touching four of his pupils. Despite the jury’s not guilty verdict, the force had insisted on listing the allegations on the man’s enhanced criminal record certificate (ECRC), effectively destroying his professional career.
The court found that the ‘fundamentally flawed’ approach of South Yorkshire Police (SYP) was rooted in officers’ belief that the man had been ‘fortunate to be acquitted’ and that it was legitimate to treat the schoolgirls’ accusations as ‘substantiated’ for the purpose of making disclosures to prospective employers on his ECRC.
Upholding the man’s judicial review challenge, the court noted that there was no evidence that SYP had given any consideration to the proportionality of the disclosures despite the ‘inherent unreliability’ of the girls’ not particularly serious allegations of bottom touching which were almost a decade old.
The matter had been investigated by the Department of Children, Schools and Families, as well as the General Teaching Council, both of whom had taken no action against the teacher. However, as a result of the disclosures, he had lost his voluntary job with a charity and his position within his local Neighbourhood Watch scheme and had been effectively ‘exiled from teaching’.
The court quashed the disclosure decision and granted the chief constable eight weeks in which to decide what details, if any, should appear on the man’s ECRC. The court urged that the allegations of which the teacher had been acquitted should not be included in the re-drafted document.