Alex Offer obtains a quashing order relating to historic abuse allegations

Monday 8 July 2013

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Case heard 20 May 2013 before Coulson J. Judgment reserved and handed down on 10 June 2013.

RK was a school teacher. In 2005 he was the subject of six allegations made by four girls he taught at the school aged about 15 of indecent assault and sexual activity with a child. The allegations were all of a similar nature, involving brief instances of the tapping or touching of the girls' bottoms. RK denied the allegations and was acquitted on all charges by the jury in the Crown Court in October 2005. However, the First Defendant, South Yorkshire Police, nevertheless decided that these allegations were material which should be disclosed on any application by RK for an enhanced criminal record certificate (ECRC). RK both lost his job and was forced to resign from his voluntary activities. He was unable to obtain further employment as a teacher as a result of South Yorkshire Police's disclosure decisions.

In April 2013 the First Defendant again proposed to disclose the allegations in respect of an application for an ECRC by RK for work as a teacher. RK challenged that decision by way of an application for judicial review seeking a quashing order and a mandatory order requiring the First Defendant to retake its decision in a timely fashion.

In a detailed judgment Mr Justice Coulson accepted RK's arguments. He found that South Yorkshire Police had not adopted a proper approach to the assessment of the proportionality of the interference with RK's Convention rights. In particular they had failed to assess either the gravity or seriousness of the allegations, had made no real attempt to assess the reliability of the information and that there had been no proper consideration of the impact of the disclosure on RK: "a huge failing on the part of SYP". They had failed to make any reference to detailed explanations given by RK, a failure to consider relevant material.

Mr Justice Coulson also accepted that South Yorkshire Police had failed to give sufficient reasons for their decisions. In doing so he indicated that if information was to be disclosed in relation to allegations that had been rejected by a jury then, at the very least, a detailed analysis of those allegations by reference to the evidence was required. South Yorkshire Police had failed both to make any reasoned assessment of the impact on RK of its proposed disclosure and had also failed to explain its view that disclosure of the allegations outweighed all other considerations.

RK had not sought an internal review pursuant to s117A of the Police Act 1997. However, his lordship accepted that this was not a failure to exhaust alternative remedies as the internal review procedure did not provide an adequate remedy: under Section 113B(6), the ECRC would have already been sent to the prospective employer before the review procedure took place. The review procedure could not stop the damage being done by a flawed ECRC.

While his lordship was not prepared to find that there had been an appearance of bias, because of the potential significance of such a finding, he did observe that it would be prudent for disclosure, hereafter, to be dealt with by different officers within the force.

The decision of South Yorkshire Police was quashed and the force ordered to produce a fresh decision within eight weeks.

For the full judgment click here.

Alex Offer was counsel for the Claimant, RK. Alex is a member of the Garden Court Public Law Team.

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